Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) can affect veterans that sat for long periods, stood for long periods, or as a side effect of other service-connected disabilities.
The condition can be medically serious and debilitating over time. Often Chronic Venous Insufficiency condition gets triggered by other circulatory conditions like deep vein thrombosis and varicose veins, which also frequently impact veterans.
If you’re a veteran who believes you might be suffering from Chronic Venous Insufficiency and other service-connected disabilities, let’s talk. We’ve helped thousands of veterans get VA disability for their conditions.
In This Article About Chronic Venous Insufficiency:
- What Is Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)?
- What Are the Most Common Causes of Chronic Venous Insufficiency?
- What Risk Factors Are There for CVI?
- Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) Symptoms
- How Is Chronic Venous Insufficiency Diagnosed?
- Chronic Venous Insufficiency Treatment
- How to Qualify for VA Disability With Chronic Venous Insufficiency
- The Bilateral Factor and Vein Problems in Your Legs
- Applying for Benefits and Getting Your Disability Rating
- Understanding Chronic Venous Insufficiency and How You Can Get the VA Help You Need
What Is Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)?
Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) is a medical condition that causes the blood that is supposed to travel out of your legs to pool at the bottom of your veins instead. The veins in your legs are basically doing an insufficient job of returning blood to your heart. If this persists, it can create swelling, pain, and unsightly marks on your legs.
When your body is working properly, the arteries throughout your body carry blood from your heart to the different parts of your body. Your veins then return the blood to your heart for more oxygen. When you suffer from CVI, however, the blood doesn’t make the return trip back to the heart the way it’s supposed to. When your veins have trouble moving the blood back up your legs to your heart, it is more complex than just a cardiovascular problem.
This is called venous insufficiency. There are a variety of factors that might lead to your veins having trouble, let’s take a closer look at how this condition happens and what to do about it.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Chronic Venous Insufficiency?
In healthy veins, there are small valves that prevent the blood from flowing backward. When you suffer from CVI, the veins aren’t working the way they’re supposed to work. Bad valves allow the blood to flow backward back down your legs or even just sit without flowing easily.
In the case of DVT, the clot essentially blocks the flow of blood up the vein. When the blood has nowhere to go, it pools in the leg.
When a person suffers from varicose veins, those valves in the veins go missing or are impaired, again causing the blood to leak back down into the leg.
What Risk Factors Are There for CVI?
There are a few common risk factors associated with Chronic Venous Insufficiency. As was already mentioned, blood clots and varicose veins can both lead to CVI if left unaddressed. Other risk factors for the disease also include:
- Family history of varicose veins
- Extended periods of standing or sitting
- Females are more at risk than males
- Age over 50
- High blood pressure in the leg veins over time
- Lack of exercise or inactivity
- Swelling and inflammation of a vein close to the skin, often in the legs (phlebitis)
During active duty, military service members will often face times of extended periods of sitting or standing and even inactivity on long flights or patrols. This is one of the reasons that veterans are suffering from DVTs, varicose veins, and continuing to CVI.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) Symptoms
If you’re concerned you’re at high risk for Chronic Venous Insufficiency, what symptoms should you watch for? You now know what happens in the leg to cause CVI but how will the disease present itself to those suffering from it?
CVI symptoms include:
- Leg and ankle swelling
- Pain in the legs from walking but improves when you put up your feet
- Tight feeling in your calves
- Itchy, painful legs
- Brown-colored skin, often near the ankles
- Varicose veins
- Difficult to heal leg ulcers
- Having an uncomfortable feeling in your legs, similar to restless leg syndrome
- Painful leg cramps or muscle spasms (charley horse)
You may experience just one symptom like varicose veins or multiple symptoms. This can be especially confusing because the symptoms can be misleading. For example, many of the symptoms you see on this list might be symptoms of varicose veins.
This is when you need to have your legs carefully evaluated so you can prevent your condition from worsening into CVI.
How Is Chronic Venous Insufficiency Diagnosed?
To get a diagnosis, you will need to visit your doctor. It will be important to the VA and VA benefits later on, that you see a doctor who is approved by them and carries the correct certifications to diagnose this condition. Most medical doctors can spot the symptoms and get a diagnosis.
If you’re experiencing symptoms, you’ll want to see your doctor and get a full physical. Part of that physical should include a full medical history, this is important in any medical diagnosis.
The doctor should consider your symptoms and look closely at your legs. If the doctor suspects CVI, there are a few options for better clarity.
One option is to perform a Venogram. Dye is inserted into the veins. The blood vessels in your legs appear opaque once an X-ray is taken. This allows the doctor to see what’s happening, or not happening, with blood flow in your legs.
A diagnosis can also be made using duplex ultrasound. The ultrasound uses sound waves to monitor the blood flow in the legs.
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Chronic Venous Insufficiency Treatment
Once you have a diagnosis, you’ll need to consider the treatment options available. Your doctor will consider many factors before deciding on a treatment plan.
Of course, your full medical history will be considered. Your doctor will look closely at what conditions might be causing you to have Chronic Venous Insufficiency. For example, do you have a DVT? If the DVT is treated, will that also address and remedy the CVI?
Your doctor will also consider:
- Your age
- The severity of your condition
- How well you can tolerate medications or procedures
First, your doctor will make some lifestyle suggestions to see if it can help.
You’ll want to avoid sitting or standing for any long period of time. You want to keep your blood flow moving in your legs as much as possible. If you’ve been sitting for a while, get up, flex, and extend your legs many times to get the blood flow moving. On the other hand, if you’ve been standing for a long time, sit and get your legs elevated.
It might sound counterintuitive, especially with sore legs, but regular exercise is beneficial. Since obesity can contribute to the disease, monitor your weight closely. It can also be helpful when you’re sitting or even lying down to get your legs elevated. It will be best for your legs if they’re elevated above your heart.
Beyond that, one of the most common and least invasive treatments is to prescribe compression socks. Compression socks have different strengths and also sock lengths. The socks help with blood flow in the legs and reduce the swelling in the legs.
One common problem associated with CVI is skin conditions. If you’re suffering from CVI and have skin issues, your doctor might get you on some antibiotics to help with the skin sores.
Other medication uses might include something to help prevent further or future blood clots since they are a contributing factor to CVI. Some patients have also had success taking herbal dietary supplements.
Medications often focus on the symptoms of itching or swelling, water retention, itchy skin, or leg pain. A lot of vets can get relief from some of the symptoms but can’t make the ongoing condition that caused it to go away.
Skin Care and CVI
One symptom of chronic venous insufficiency is dry, itchy skin. You will want to regularly use a moisturizer on your legs to keep them from cracking or the itching to get worse. Your doctor might opt for a topical cream to help with itching to prevent the skin from cracking and liquid oozing from the leg.
If you have cracking where there is fluid draining from the wounds, you want to see a doctor right away. You’ll want to apply layered compression bandages to prevent infection and maintain blood flow in the legs. Infection can make any condition worse, so tend to that before you address your vein problems.
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Non-Surgical and Surgical Treatments
One non-surgical option is called sclerotherapy. Done in your doctor’s office, a substance is injected right into the spider or varicose veins. These veins then collapse and disappear. The goal is to get the blood flowing in the correct veins to increase blood flow.
A newer treatment called endovenous thermal ablation uses heat waves and a laser. These get directed at the problem veins causing them to close and again get the blood flowing in the main veins of the legs.
Only a small percentage of patients require surgical treatment because their CVI is so severe or the non-surgical options haven’t worked.
Vein ligation is one of the most common surgical options with the least difficult recovery. In vein ligation, a surgeon will go into the leg and tie off the problem vein. In stripping, which comes with a more difficult recovery, the larger and more problematic veins are surgically removed.
Microincisions and ambulatory phlebectomy are considered surgical but are less invasive than the previous options. Small incisions are made near the problem veins and then a phlebectomy hook goes in through the small incision and removes the problematic veins.
How to Qualify for VA Disability With Chronic Venous Insufficiency
The Veterans Affairs assigns all potential medical conditions a schedule of ratings. This condition is part of the cardiovascular schedule of ratings. It’s listed in 38 CFR Section 4 with diagnostic code 7120 (the same code as Varicose veins).
The VA will want to make a service connection between your condition and the time you served. You might qualify for benefits through CVI or the symptoms causing the CVI like from a DVT or varicose veins. Because of this, you may even have multiple disability ratings that allow you to qualify and increase your benefits rating.
The Bilateral Factor and Vein Problems in Your Legs
If you have DVT, CVI, or a varicose vein VA rating that affects both of your legs, you should get a 10% bonus rating because of the bilateral factor. The VA understands that having disabilities that hit both arms or both legs can cause extra inconvenience, so they created the bilateral factor. You have to have conditions in both arms or both legs to get it, so an affected arm and the opposing leg wouldn’t qualify. Since veterans’ varicose veins usually occur in both legs, make sure you ask for this in your VA application.
You shouldn’t assume the VA will catch anything, so make it explicit in your application. You can get an estimate of how the bilateral factor will affect your overall disability rating in our free combined VA rating calculator.
Applying for Benefits and Getting Your Disability Rating
If you see your medical doctor for a diagnosis and treatment of CVI, you’ll want to discuss with them that you’ll be applying for VA benefits because of the condition. They will need to provide information about your diagnosis and how it’s impacting your life to Veteran’s Affairs.
Veterans Affairs will consider how your problems fit within their assigned schedule of ratings. They’ll also want to assign you a schedule of rating scores. This will show as a percentage and suggests the impact the condition is having on your ability to function normally in life.
The VA uses this ratings score to help decide on benefits and benefit amounts.
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Understanding Chronic Venous Insufficiency and How You Can Get the VA Help You Need
Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) can be a painful and impactful disease in your life. Other veterans get VA ratings for CVI and Varicose veins, so maybe you can too. Call our experienced staff today to discuss what happened to you in the service and how things are going now.
At Woods and Woods, the Veteran’s Firm, we’ve helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. We’ve been adding staff and lawyers during the Covid pandemic to better serve disabled veterans in difficult times.
Call us today to discuss your VA disability appeal or your first application. The call is free and we won’t charge you a single fee until we win your case. We even pay for the postage for all of the documentation you send to our office. You can look for a VA disability attorney near you or call us and join the thousands of veterans living off of VA disability thanks to Woods and Woods.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Probably not. This may fall into pyramiding if you get VA ratings for the same symptoms from different conditions. These additional symptoms may help you increase your VA rating, however, so talk to your doctor or VA rep to see if that is relevant.
They might. You want to make sure you have the proper diagnosis and service connection for your VA disability application. If denied, don’t re-submit the same evidence in your appeal. You’ll need to show the proper diagnosis, the clear service connection, and the medical nexus relating the two. If you need help with this or need to appeal, call us and we’ll see what is necessary to win your claim.