Superficial venous insufficiency (SVI) is a condition that leads to varicose veins. Most everybody can remember looking at their grandma’s legs and wondering why her veins were so big. Large varicose veins are not the only way that superficial venous insufficiency manifest. When the valvular function of the veins fails, there is increasing pressure in the superficial venous system of the lower extremities. Initially, this leads to some mild swelling and a feeling of heaviness at the end of the day. Larger veins can appear and this is usually why people go to the doctor to get it checked out.

The more vague symptoms of heaviness, aching in your legs, and general loss of energy of your legs is usually thought to be part of the aging process. Because it takes years for venous insufficiency to manifest significant symptoms, most people think that the aches and pains you feel are due merely to advancing age. We’re now finding that this isn’t always the case. Because water accumulates in your legs and water is very heavy, it doesn’t take very much to make your legs feel fatigued and tired at the end of the day.

What are Some Common Causes of SVI?

Family History

There is a strong family history association; if your parents or grandparents had problems with their veins, you most likely will too.


Pregnancy causes multiple changes in your body, making women more prone to venous insufficiency.

Excess Weight

Being overweight puts additional pressure on the veins in your legs and leads to venous insufficiency as well.

Occupational Factors

Multiple occupations have a high incidence of venous insufficiency. These are jobs where you sit or stand for long periods of time. Some examples of this are surgeons, waitresses, mail handlers and teachers.

Diagnosing and Treating SVI

Making a diagnosis of venous insufficiency is relatively easy. It is done with a specialized ultrasound study which looks at the valves in the superficial veins to see if they are functioning or not. If problems are detected, we typically begin treatment with compression stockings. These do not make the veins go away, but they help reduce the pressure on the lower portion of the leg and keep the water from accumulating in the tissue.

Most people benefit from wearing compression stockings. However, if the symptoms still persist, then treatment of the refluxing veins as appropriate. In our practice. Most of the treatments are done in the office as an outpatient. Minimally invasive therapies for venous insufficiency have made surgical treatment of venous insufficiency obsolete in most cases.

How Serious is SVI?

Venous insufficiency is not life-threatening. However, it is definitely lifestyle limiting. If you experience swelling, heaviness, aching or fatigue in your legs toward the end of the day you may have venous insufficiency. If you see visible veins in your legs. This is just the tip of the iceberg and you should be evaluated for venous insufficiency. Those little veins will eventually grow to be big veins; and the larger they are, the harder it is to get them to completely go away.

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