Venous hypertension is high blood pressure inside the veins in your legs. It can impair your body’s ability to carry oxygen to your lower body and cause problems like swelling and ulcers.

Venous hypertension often develops due to problems with the valves inside your veins, which leads to the backflow and pooling of blood. It can also occur as a complication of pregnancy and some rare genetic disorders.

Read on to learn more about venous hypertension, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

Venous hypertension vs. venous insufficiency

Venous hypertension refers to high blood pressure in the veins of your legs. It’s a complication of a related condition called venous insufficiency.

Venous insufficiency is when your veins have trouble carrying blood back to your heart. It can lead to the pooling of blood in your legs, which increases the blood pressure in your veins.

Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood away from your heart, and veins are blood vessels that carry deoxygenated blood back to your heart. Veins in your lower body carry blood back to your heart upward against gravity when you’re standing or sitting upright.

The veins in your lower body contain one-way valves that help prevent the backflow of blood. An impaired ability to return blood from your veins to your heart is called venous insufficiency. The first manifestation of venous insufficiency is venous hypertension.

Venous hypertension is most commonly associated with venous reflux, which is the backflow of blood through the valves in your veins.

Risk factors for chronic venous insufficiency include:

Venous hypertension can also occur due to some genetic disorders, like Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome, which often causes severe venous hypertension.

Venous insufficiency and venous hypertension affect about 40% of pregnancies.

People who develop venous insufficiency develop signs and symptoms related to poor circulation in their lower body. These can include:

  • painful and throbbing legs
  • varicose veins
  • leg swelling due to fluid buildup
  • darker areas of skin
  • varicose eczema, or patches of dry, flaky, and swollen skin on your leg
  • skin ulcers on your legs
  • slow wound healing

Potential complications of venous insufficiency and venous hypertension include:

Gangrene can lead to the need for amputation.

It’s important to contact a doctor any time you develop symptoms of poor circulation, like swelling in your legs or discolored patches on your skin. A doctor can help you determine if an underlying health condition is contributing to your symptoms and if you might benefit from either medical treatment or changes to your lifestyle habits.

Medical emergency

Go to the nearest emergency room if you develop any symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, such as:

  • swelling on one side of your foot, ankle, or leg
  • cramping leg pain, usually in your calf
  • unexplained and severe foot or ankle pain
  • a warm patch of skin on your leg or foot
  • changes to your skin color, such as your skin turning pale, red, or bluish

A doctor will start your diagnosis by reviewing your medical history and asking you about your symptoms. They’ll likely perform a physical exam, where they’ll examine your legs for characteristic symptoms like ulcers or swelling.

Doctors can use a type of imaging test called a Doppler ultrasound to measure how well blood is moving through your veins and detect valves in your blood vessels that aren’t working properly.

If your doctor finds that you do have signs of venous hypertension or venous insufficiency, they may run other tests to look for potential underlying health conditions.

A doctor may recommend the following treatments for venous hypertension and insufficiency:

  • compression socks or stockings to help improve your circulation
  • lifestyle changes, such as:
    • losing weight if you’re overweight
    • improving your diet
    • exercising regularly
  • endothermal ablation to close veins using heat from a laser
  • sclerotherapy to shrink your veins by injecting a solution called sclerosant
  • ligation and stripping, which involves removing affected veins
  • valve reconstruction to fix valves that aren’t working properly

You might be able to prevent venous hypertension to some degree by taking steps to protect your vascular health. Lifestyle changes you can make that might help you prevent venous hypertension include:

  • avoiding smoking and tobacco use
  • breaking up extended periods of sitting with movement breaks
  • reducing your sodium intake
  • exercising regularly
  • maintaining a moderate weight

Here are some frequently asked questions that people have about venous hypertension.

Is venous hypertension dangerous?

Without treatment, venous hypertension and venous insufficiency tend to be progressive. Ulcers are common and difficult to treat. Many people develop a serious condition called deep vein thrombosis, which can progress to a life threatening condition called pulmonary embolism.

Can venous hypertension be reversed?

Venous hypertension may be reversible if you treat the underlying cause. Damage to the valves in your veins may be permanent without surgery.

Venous hypertension is when the blood pressure in the veins in your lower body rises. It’s a complication of venous insufficiency, which is a reduced ability of your veins to return blood to your heart.

People with venous hypertension can have symptoms that range from mild to severe. In severe cases, you may need surgery to repair or replace damaged valves in your lower body.