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Athletes Can Have Venous Insufficiency, What you Need to Know

When you think about problems with veins, you probably don’t think about an elite athlete or an Olympian. However, even athletes can develop venous insufficiency, which leads to spider veins, varicose veins, and leg pain. 

Having venous insufficiency doesn’t mean you’re out of shape, overweight or have done something wrong.

It can happen to anyone, including athletes, especially if they do sports such as running or if they have a family history of varicose veins.

At Metro Vein Clinic, we’re here to help those suffering from venous insufficiency. We want to ease your mind about the condition and to let you know that there are effective treatments.

varicose veins in feet

You don’t have to suffer from the throbbing and leg pain or deal with the unsightly bulges and blotches that venous insufficiency often creates. 

What is Venous Insufficiency?

When your veins fail to circulate your blood adequately, especially from the lower extremities, doctors diagnose venous insufficiency. 

Your veins’ job is to return blood to your heart for it to be pumped back through your lungs to pick up more oxygen. Veins contain a series of valves, sort of like the locks on a canal.

Blood moves from valve to valve and is supposed to only go in one direction, toward the heart. 

When your doctor diagnoses venous insufficiency, it’s because the valves do not work correctly, and they allow some blood to flow backward through the valve.

As this continues, the walls of the veins weaken and more valves malfunction. These changes allow blood to pool in the legs, or in sections of the veins, rather than get returned to the heart. 

pregnant woman with vericose veins

Over time, as the vein walls weaken and blood pools, you will get the classic knots and lumps of varicose veins.

You may also get blood pooling around your ankles, leg throbbing, itching or pain, restless legs, leg cramps, and even leg ulcers. 

What Causes Venous Insufficiency?

Venous insufficiency is a common condition that affects about a quarter-million new people in the US every year. It can be a situational problem, brought on by pregnancy or obesity, but it is often chronic, and people struggle with it for the remainder of their lives.

There isn’t a single cause for venous insufficiency, but there are some things that make developing it more likely. These include:

  • Being female
  • Pregnancy
  • Being tall
  • Being overweight
  • Family history of vein problems
  • Damage to your veins, such as a leg injury or previous blood clot
  • Sitting or standing for long periods
  • Smoking
  • Deep vein thrombosis or phlebitis
  • Repeated heavy lifting from a standing position

Athletes who run or lift free weights add risk factors for venous insufficiency, but the condition is much more prevalent in women than in men. 

Symptoms of Venous Insufficiency

If you have a family member who had varicose veins or other signs of venous insufficiency, you are at higher risk of developing it, even if you are an athlete. Be on the lookout for these symptoms:

  • Tight feeling in your calves
  • Itchy, painful legs
  • Swelling in your ankles or legs
  • Skin discoloration, purplish or brown, especially around your ankles
  • Pain in your lower legs when walking or running that stops when you rest
  • Leg discomfort or urgent need to move your legs
  • Strong leg cramps or spasms
  • Purplish bumps and bulges
  • Knotted or corded purple or red veins visible under the skin
  • Leg ulcers that weep and do not heal

Treatment for Venous Insufficiency

If you have venous insufficiency, there are a variety of treatments that can help alleviate the symptoms. You don’t have to stop exercising or change your active lifestyle. Regular exercise tends to help venous insufficiency. Try these strategies and treatments, alone or in combination.

Compression garments

Stockings and leg sleeves help boost circulation and support your lower leg. They are an excellent choice for training gear because you still have your full range of motion, but they help reduce pain and swelling.

Leg Elevation

man doing yoga stretch with legs on the wall

Elevating your legs can improve blood flow and reduce swelling. Experts recommend elevating your legs above your heart for 10 minutes every hour, if possible.

If not, change positions, and get up and move around rather than sitting still or standing for long periods. 

Yoga Positions

senior citizens doing yoga stretches on the floor

Yoga is a great addition to your workout if you have venous insufficiency. It improves blood flow with gentle stretches and movement, especially toning and focusing on the thighs and calves.

Yoga also includes some specific positions that help elevate your legs and improve venous insufficiency symptoms.

“Legs up the wall,” shoulder stands, and other inversions help use gravity to improve blood flow to your heart and relieve pressure on your legs.

Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)

This minimally invasive outpatient procedure targets heat into the affected vein using a catheter.

The result is closing off the malfunctioning vein, rerouting blood elsewhere, which then reduces blood pooling and improves overall blood flow.

You’ll need a doctor trained in RFA to perform the procedure. We offer RFA in our office at Metro Vein and have helped hundreds of customers improve their venous insufficiency using this procedure.


Dr. injects sclerotherapy

Sclerotherapy is another in-office procedure done by a trained physician that works well for stubborn or widespread cases of venous insufficiency.

The doctor injects a chemical along the affected veins, causing scar tissue to form and flattening the veins.

Don’t worry, the body adapts and uses other, non-affected veins to carry the blood. Relief from pain, as well as visible improvement, often happens immediately after treatment.

Sclerotherapy can be done visually, with the doctor discovering the affected veins from their prominence on your skin’s surface.

It can also be done using ultrasound to locate deeper veins that are causing the problem. We offer both types at Metro Vein Clinic. 

Contact a Specialist for Venous Insufficiency

If you’re an athlete whose venous insufficiency is negatively impacting your ability to train and compete, give Dr. Afzal at Metro Vein Clinic a call or complete our online intake form.

We can help improve your symptoms and relieve your pain. If you’re not an athlete but also have symptoms of failing veins, we can help you as well.

Our knowledgeable staff has been assisting patients in the Twin Cities area for more than seven years, and we take many insurance policies.

Let us help you with your venous insufficiency and improve your legs and your life.