Every year, roughly 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), an ongoing condition associated with circulation problems in your legs. CVI happens when tiny valves inside your leg veins stop working the way they’re supposed to.
Normally, these valves open and close in sequence, pushing blood back up toward the heart. In CVI, the valves malfunction, allowing blood to flow backward and “pool up.”
People diagnosed with CVI have symptoms like:
Often, these symptoms are mild initially, becoming worse as the condition progresses.
At Middle Georgia Vascular Surgery Center & Vein Solutions, Dr. Allison Burkett uses advanced diagnostics to evaluate CVI in patients living in and around Warner Robins, Georgia. Staging plays an important role in ensuring every patient’s CVI treatment is tailored for their unique needs.
In this post, Dr. Burkett offers a brief overview of CVI staging and the symptoms associated with each stage.
While an office exam and imaging can help diagnose CVI, staging helps track the progression of CVI and monitor the effectiveness of your treatment over time. Dr. Burkett uses physical examination, lab tests, and imaging to assist with accurate staging.
There are seven stages of CVI, with each stage preceded by the letter “C” for “clinical.”
This is the very earliest and mildest stage of CVI. Patients in this stage have no visible signs, and treatment typically is focused on prevention strategies like lifestyle changes to slow the progression of the condition.
Stage C1 is when vein changes become visible. In this stage, you won’t have varicose veins, but smaller veins called reticular veins and spider veins will appear. These smaller veins appear purplish or reddish under your skin, but they don’t bulge like varicose veins do.
Lifestyle changes will still be important at this stage. Dr. Burkett may recommend compression stocking or socks to help slow the progression of the condition and support healthy circulation.
Stage C2 is when varicose veins begin to appear. The swollen, twisted, visible veins bulge out above your skin, and they’re often accompanied by cramps or itchy skin. A substage — C2r — is sometimes used for people who’ve had varicose veins recur despite treatment.
In this stage, varicose vein treatments can be helpful in eliminating the damaged veins for better circulation in the area. Lifestyle changes and compression garments are also important in C2 and C2r.
This is the stage where swelling (or edema) begins. Edema happens when swollen blood vessels leak fluids into your tissues, and when your veins are so compromised, they can’t remove fluid efficiently, allowing it to build up in your lower extremities. Compression socks play an important role in this stage, helping to reduce swelling and promote fluid drainage.
C4 is when you begin to experience changes in your skin’s color or texture, along with swelling. Treatments are focused on preserving the health and integrity of your skin, in addition to treating varicose veins as they appear.
This stage is divided into three substages. In C4a, your skin might be red and itchy, or you might develop small brownish or grayish spots or discoloration on your skin. C4b involves more serious changes in your skin, including thickening in some places. Your skin might feel sore or extra sensitive. In C4c, visible vessels appear around your ankles.
This stage is marked by the appearance of sores or ulcers. Some of these ulcers may be healed, while others may still be open. In this stage, Dr. Burkett typically focuses on reducing swelling and other underlying symptoms to help prevent ulcers in the future.
Stage C6 is the most advanced stage, and it’s characterized by open ulcers that significantly increase your risks of both infection and amputation. Dr. Burkett uses advanced wound care treatments aimed at helping your skin heal as quickly as possible. Stage C6r means you have recurrent ulcers, which are sores that return despite being treated.
Dr. Burkett has significant experience in both diagnosing and managing CVI in all its stages. If you have CVI or you have symptoms of CVI, call (478) 238-5513 or book an appointment online at Middle Georgia Vascular Surgery Center & Vein Solutions today.