What does CVI look and feel like?
The early stages of CVI begin with spider veins and varicose veins, this can then lead to swelling of our lower limb. The swelling is most prominent around the ‘gaiter region’ which is between our calf muscle and ankles. Swelling can also progress upwards towards the knees or on the tops of the feet. The stage of CVI when swelling occurs is predominantly when people begin to feel discomfort, heaviness, or the feeling of a “wooden leg”, this can occur at any time, however it is much more prominent at the end of the day. These symptoms are often relieved with leg elevation or the use of compression.
Persistent swelling disrupts the microcirculation to our skin, meaning the skin isn’t getting enough oxygen and nutrients, this will lead to the next stage of the disease which are skin changes. The skin can become itchy, pigmented, thickened and fibrotic. The skin changes are a critical aspect of CVI, if left untreated, or managed poorly this can lead to a venous leg ulcer, which is the most serious complication to stem from CVI. A venous leg ulcer can cause significant pain, and mobility issues.
The development of a venous leg ulcer has seen 45% of people become housebound and 50% of people suffering with their daily activities. People with advanced CVI are at a higher risk of thrombus, 60% of people are likely to develop phlebitis (inflammation of a vein) which in 50% of cases will lead to DT and higher risk of pulmonary embolism.
CVI is a progressive disorder, which means that it has several stages and if not managed or treated accordingly, it can progress into the more serious stages of the disease. Outcomes for patients with CVI are variable, but when it is left untreated it can lead to severe health concerns, so it is crucial CVI is managed and controlled from the early stages.