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Lymphedema Compared with Chronic Venous Insufficiency


Right side, normal vein and valve.
Left side  damaged valve and vein.

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) and lymphedema are similar in that both are conditions of the feet and legs. Beyond that, the causes, symptoms and treatment are very different. Recognizing these differences is important in understanding how each of these conditions is treated.

  • CVI is a condition in which the veins have trouble transporting blood back to the heart.
  • CVI occurs most frequently in older individuals. 
  • CVI is damage to the valves of the veins. These damaged veins prevent the valves from closing completely. The leaking of damaged valves allows blood to leak backward (away from the heart). This results in swelling as this fluid pools in the legs and feet.
  • CVI diminishes the capacity of the venous system and it increases the workload for the lymphatic system system in the affected area. To compensate for this excess fluid in the tissues, the lymphatic system must transport larger volumes of fluid and protein to reduce the fluid load in fhe affected tissues of the leges. This is a serious circulatory disorder that usually becomes worse over time. This painfulful condition can result in disability and even death.


  • A major characteristic of CVI is PAIN, after walking or standing.
    PAIN, that is NOT associated with walking or standing, is associated with lymphedema.
  • SWELLING associated with the early stages of CVI, usually occurs in the ankles and lower legs. This swelling increases during the day and reduces at night during sleep.
    The SWELLING of lymphedema affects the entire limb and foot. This swelling does not usually reduce during at night.
  • As CVI becomes more severe, the swelling increases but it does not reduce at night.
    If lymphedema is not treated, the swelling increases and the tissues become harder.
  • Since CVI is caused by protein fluid, it does not have an abnormally increased risk of infection.
    The swelling of lymphedema is caused by protein-rich fluid. This fluid increases the risk of infection if there is a break in the skin.


© LymphNotes.com 2014. This information does not replace the advice of a qualified health care professional. 

Category: Lymphedema and Other Conditions Updated: 2017-01-02


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