The following information does not replace a physician’s diagnosis and advice under any circumstances whatsoever.

Vein weakness (venous insufficiency)

Vein weakness: what’s that?

Vein weakness (venous insufficiency) is the description of a partially disturbed vein function, which has normally arisen from hindered blood reflux. Normally, the leg veins are affected by vein weakness.

As leg veins are located beneath the heart and therefore must in particular transport blood to the heart against gravity when you are standing, they have a special structure. They use your leg muscles for this purpose. Because the veins are located between the muscles, they are compressed as soon as the muscles tense. The constant tensing and relaxation of the muscles when walking acts like a pump and is accordingly described as a muscle-vein pump. So-called venous valves are located in the inner vein walls. They are open when the blood flows upwards towards the heart and close in order to avoid backflow.

Vein weakness mostly begins with gradual failure of the venous valves, i.e., when they no longer close properly, blood transport towards the heart is impaired. Blood then congests in the veins and the venous wall yields more and more and finally the vein expands.

Symptoms of vein weakness

Persons affected by vein weakness often report swollen, tired, heavy or painful legs – mostly in the evening. As the blood vessels expand more due to heat, complaints often increase when temperatures rise (summer, sauna, etc.).

The visible signs of vein weakness (venous insufficiency) may include spider veins. They can be recognised as fine reddish-blue lines which emerge beneath the skin. Within the course of time varicose veins and also thromboses may form as a result of vein weakness. The speed at which this process takes place and whether varicose veins or thromboses are formed at all varies from person to person. However, we always recommend not ignoring a vein weakness, but instead working against it with targeted exercises and/or treatment measures.

Causes of vein weakness

Venous weakness often has a hereditary background Moreover, being overweight and previous blood clots in the veins (thromboses) increase the risk of vein diseases. Equally, activities involving long periods of sitting or standing foster the emergence of a vein weakness.

Women incur vein problems such as vein weakness, spider veins or varicose veins considerably more frequently than men. Probably, the mostly looser structure of the connective tissue or an existing connective tissue weakness also contributes to this. As an elemental component of the body, the connective tissue is a supporting tissue which is incorporated both in the skin and the muscle and fat tissue. The most important components for the connective tissue is the collagen fibres which ensure sufficient elasticity and firmness. With increasing age, the body produces less collagen and this may result in connective tissue weakness within the course of the natural ageing process.

The female oestrogen level can also be jointly responsible for the formation of vein weakness. In case of hormonal changes, as for example during pregnancy, oestrogen concentration is particularly high. Sometimes this can lead to vein problems such as painful legs and stronger adverse effects which result in chronic venous disorders if they remain untreated. The hormonally caused, reduced vessel muscle tension makes the vessels more elastic and expands them. This means that the venous valves no longer close correctly. The increased blood quantity and natural increase in weight strengthen the pressure on the leg veins.

However, the changes to the leg veins during pregnancy may only be depicted as a cosmetic change which disappears of its own accord after birth.

Diagnosis of vein weakness

In addition to the patient history (case history) and a clinical examination, primarily duplex sonography of the veins plays an important role. During the clinical examination, the physician assesses the ailments visually and palpates the affected legs when standing, sitting and lying down.

Using duplex sonography, both the deep and surface veins can be judged. Moreover, with it the spread (localisation) and extent of non-functioning venous sections can be recorded and also damaged connecting veins between deep and surface veins can be depicted.

How can vein weakness be prevented?

The most effective prevention of vein weakness is keeping the risk factors described above as low as possible or taking independent preventive measures as a vein weakness is very often hereditary. Basically, the symptoms are treatable, however it is not possible to heal veins which are already damaged.

The following tips contribute to the prevention of vein weakness:

  • Healthy lifestyle: balanced high-fibre nutrition (weight control, plenty of exercise, sufficient sleep, no smoking)
  • Calf muscle training: as much exercise as possible such as walking/running, swimming, cycling and vein gymnastics
  • Circulation stimulation: walking barefoot, contrast showering, Kneipp baths/pours
  • Avoid heat and saunas (heat expands the blood vessels)
  • Do not sit with crossed legs (this hinders blood reflux)
  • Change your sitting position frequently or stand up and move briefly at least once per hour
  • Wear medical compression stockings such as BORT AktiVen ® for example
  • Best prop painful, swollen legs up to relieve the veins and massage tired legs as applicable with an oil which stimulates circulation

What therapy options are available for vein weakness?

Wearing medical compression stockings is the basic therapy for venous diseases. Medical compression stockings help to support the natural function of the veins in the long-term and to prevent progression of the venous disorder as well as long-term consequences such as chronic venous insufficiency (CVI)  . If the venous valves are still partially functional, manual lymph drainage can also help. Both compression stockings and lymph drainage press the leg veins and tissue together gently. This prevents or reduces the accumulation of water (oedemata) in the legs, the return transport of the venous blood congesting in the legs to the heart is supported.

Symptomatic therapy augments and helps in less serious cases. Propping up your legs (several times per day for half an hour) improves micro-circulation in the legs. Also, walking barefoot, contrast showering, Kneipp baths/pours and calf muscle training as well as exercise and sport can improve the symptoms.

Home remedies such as red vine leaves and horse chestnut are said to have a supportive effect for vein weakness in the legs, however their effectiveness has not been clearly proven.