Causes of Chronic Venous Disease

Heavy, Painful & Swollen Legs

Varicose Veins

Signs & Symptoms of Chronic Venous Disease


Do Young Adults Suffer From Heavy, Painful & Swollen Legs?

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is typically seen as an issue that only affects the elder population; however, in America alone more than 25 million adults suffer from varicose veins or other forms of venous disease, regardless of their age.1

Young people are also at risk of developing CVI, a severe condition that requires both an early diagnosis as well as an evaluation of the associated risk factors; but that has been largely underdiagnosed and undertreated for a long time2 and needs to be taken seriously, even among the younger generation.

If you are wondering whether you can suffer from venous insufficiency as a young adult the answer is, yes. In this article, we explore how to identify the early signs of CVI and the causes that might be at the root of venous disease in the younger population.

young varicose veins

How to spot the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency in young adults

In general, CVI is more frequent in women from 35 to 40 years of age, due to a hormonal predisposition, and because its prevalence increases with pregnancy and age. However, venous insufficiency is increasingly affecting younger patients, mainly because this condition has a lot to do with lifestyle.

As such, the growing sedentary lifestyle, as well as the increase in obesity over recent decades, are 2 factors that have helped increase the development of chronic venous disease in young adults.3

spot cvi in young

Early signs of chronic venous insufficiency in young adults

Even though not all cases involving the early stages of CVI are the same, there are some early symptoms that may be giving you warning signs that your veins are weakened and that you might be suffering from CVI. Here are the most common early signs to be on the lookout for.

  1. Varicose veins. The prevalence of varicose veins in the population is important as it is estimated that about 20% of adults will suffer from varicose veins at some point of their life, including when they are young.4 Varicose veins can sometimes be easily identified visually since they can appear as large, raised, and swollen veins that twist and turn, typically forming in the lower extremities.5 
  2. Painful swollen and heavy legs. If you often feel that your legs are tired and stiff, swollen and painful, it might be an early sign that you are developing chronic venous insufficiency. If you often suffer this feeling of heavy legs, especially after long working hours stuck in the same position, this could be an early warning sign of chronic venous insufficiency. It is therefore recommended to consult your doctor in order to avoid deterioration of the condition, and ask them about the use of venoactive drugs to halt the progression of the disease.
  3. Changes in the color of your skin. CVI can have a direct impact on skin pigmentation of the lower limbs due to changes in melanin levels.6

lifestyle cvi

How can lifestyle affect venous disease in young adults?

As previously mentioned, a sedentary lifestyle is one of the leading causes of health risks in young adults,7 usually worsened by jobs that require us to spend long periods of time in the same position, whether seated or standing, and can also increase the risk of developing a venous disease. If this sounds familiar, don’t miss out on these tips on how to help with painful heavy legs during the working day.

Aside from living a sedentary life, there are other factors that can also increase the likelihood of developing a venous disease as a young adult.

  • The impact of obesity on patients with chronic venous insufficiency has been found to be of importance. According to research, there’s a correlation between body mass index and the likelihood of suffering from CVI.8
  • Tobacco is also an important risk factor that can cause venous disease. Smoking causes acute cardiovascular events and is associated with higher blood pressure in people with hypertension and enhances the likelihood of complications.9
  • The impact of what we eat and drink can also be of importance in the development of chronic venous disease. Diets that are high in starch, red meat and fried foods, and low in fiber can result in constipation which places extra exertion on the veins and increases the risk of CVI.10
  • Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and birth control. Estrogens cause an increase in the synthesis of coagulation proteins which can increase the risk of venous thrombosis. Pregnancy creates an increase in circulating blood volume, together with expansion of the uterus, weight gain, reduced physical activity, and hormonal changes,11 is a risk factor for developing CVI in young adults.

Finally, if you are worried about suffering from chronic venous insufficiency, it is important to understand the progressive nature of the disease and to act as soon as you identify the first warning signs. A change in lifestyle together with a healthy diet and early treatment can be the best combination to combat the progression of venous disease.


  1. Young Kim, C.Y. Maximilian Png, Brandon J. Sumpio, Charles S. DeCarlo, Anahita Dua, Defining the human and health care costs of chronic venous insufficiency, Seminars in Vascular Surgery, Volume 34, Issue 1, 2021, Pages 59-64, found in: 
  2. Spiridon M, Corduneanu D. Chronic Venous Insufficiency: a Frequently Underdiagnosed and Undertreated Pathology. Maedica (Bucur). 2017 Jan;12(1):59-61, found in 
  3. Raffetto JD, Khalil RA. Mechanisms of Lower Extremity Vein Dysfunction in Chronic Venous Disease and Implications in Management of Varicose Veins. Vessel Plus. 2021;5:36, found in,dysfunctional%20valves%20and%20venous%20reflux. 
  4. NCBI - Varicose veins: Overview. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from 
  5. Varicose Veins and Spider Veins: Symptoms and Treatment. (2003, November 11). WebMD. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from
  6. A. Caggiati; C. Rosi; M. Franceschini; D. Innocenzi (2008). The Nature of Skin Pigmentations in Chronic Venous Insufficiency: A Preliminary Report. , 35(1), 111–118 found in,C4a%20stage%20of%20CEAP%20classification. 
  7. Park JH, Moon JH, Kim HJ, Kong MH, Oh YH. Sedentary Lifestyle: Overview of Updated Evidence of Potential Health Risks. Korean J Fam Med. 2020 Nov;41(6):365-373. doi: 10.4082/kjfm.20.0165. Epub 2020 Nov 19. Found in:
  8. Danielsson, G.; Eklof, B.; Grandinetti, A.; L. Kistner, R. (2002). The Influence of Obesity on Chronic Venous Disease. Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, 36(4), 271–276 found in
  9. NCBI -How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from 
  10. Jing He, Fan Ma, Jie Yao, Shyamal Premaratne, Hongxia Gao, Zihang Xu, Jiawei Li, Tonghui You, Xin Du, Huimin Xu, Ying Yu, Qian Zhang, Le Jiao, Jiantao Zhang, Tongqiang Ma, Xudong Su, Wenpei Zhang, Shengquan Wang, Lei Sun, Bin Hao, Tao Yang, Dietary Effects on Chronic Venous Disease, Annals of Vascular Surgery,2022. Found in:
  11. Ropacka-Lesiak M, Kasperczak J, Breborowicz GH. Czynniki ryzyka rozwoju niewydolności zylnej kończyn dolnych w ciazy--cześc I [Risk factors for the development of venous insufficiency of the lower limbs during pregnancy--part 1]. Ginekol Pol. 2012 Dec;83(12):939-42. Polish found in,bonds%20between%20the%20collagen%20fibers.