Varicose vein disease is a common and often underappreciated cause of leg pain. Varicose veins may be overlooked as a cause of leg pain because not all varicose veins bulge on the surface; some are invisible and located deeper in the leg.
Leaking varicose veins cause blood to pool and waste products to accumulate in the leg. Due to the buildup of pressure and toxins in the leg, persons with vein problems can experience leg aching, heaviness and fatigue of the leg, which typically worsens as the day progresses. Some feel like their legs are like “lead weights,” and may want to sit down at the end of the day and elevate their legs. Symptoms worsen with sitting or standing and may intensify during menstrual cycles or when exposed to heat. Elevating the legs or applying compression stockings usually improves the leg aching, although only temporarily. Unfortunately, in certain individuals with severe vein leakage, a condition called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) can develop. With CVI, swelling can become more pronounced and skin discoloration or even leg ulcerations can occur.
Again, not all varicose veins bulge or rise above the surface of the skin. Many varicose veins are internal. However, these hidden internal veins can cause just as many problems as superficial, bulging varicose veins. Patients can develop outright leg ulcerations, without showing a single, visible varicose vein. If you are experiencing leg aching, swelling or fatigue, especially if it is worse with standing or sitting, you deserve to be evaluated for vein disease regardless of whether you have visible bulging veins or not.
When due to varicose veins, leg swelling can vary from just a touch of swelling at the ankles to full-blown edema, which can make it difficult to put on shoes. When a result of vein leakage, swelling typically worsens as the day progresses and settles in the ankles. Like vein-related leg pain, the swelling is aggravated by heat, sitting or standing. Many patients have been placed on diuretics, or water pills, with little improvement in their swelling. Elevating the legs, wearing compression stockings or walking are often more effective than water pills when swelling is due to vein problems.
Sometimes leaking veins can disrupt other bodily functions as well. For instance, the buildup of pressure from faulty veins can damage the delicate lymphatic system. This type of swelling is called lymphedema. When the lymphatics are sluggish, the swelling can extend into the feet and toes and this stubborn swelling will be present in the morning, even after a night’s rest. As the lymphatic fluid is full of proteins, it is also an easy environment for bacteria to grow in. For this reason, individuals with lymphedema are prone to serious infections of the skin, known as cellulitis. Skin changes can also develop over time, and the skin can become leathery, brown and even ulcerate. It is important to recognize the signs of lymphedema early, when it can easily be treated.
Leg swelling should not be ignored since it can be an important sign of underlying disease. For example, abrupt swelling affecting one leg can be a sign of a life-threatening blood clot, whereas gradual leg swelling accompanied by shortness of breath could indicate new-onset heart failure. If swelling develops suddenly, or has other symptoms associated with it, it should be promptly evaluated. Our office is equipped with the latest ultrasound technology and ARDMS-certified vascular technicians to diagnose dangerous blood clots or vein leakage. As vein leakage is one of the most common reasons for leg swelling, attending to vein problems early can do a great deal to keep swelling in check.
Facts about leg swelling:
- Varicose veins are one of the most common causes of leg swelling.
- Leaking varicose veins can damage the delicate lymphatics, causing lymphedema.
- Leg swelling can have many causes and can indicate an underlying disease state.
- Abrupt swelling affecting a single leg should be evaluated urgently to rule out a potentially lethal blood clot.
- Advanced Vein Center has registered vascular technicians who specialize in the evaluation of blood clots, lymphedema and venous insufficiency.
Those who suffer from leg pain and swelling know that these uncomfortable symptoms can force them to lead a less active lifestyle, which only compounds the problem. As varicose veins aren’t always visible, sometimes vein disease can progress without one even suspecting it.
If you’re experiencing swollen, tired or heavy legs, there’s really no reason to wait. We can conduct an assessment to pinpoint the root of your problem and help you form the best plan to address it. Today’s vein treatment options require little-to-no recovery time and are covered by Medicare and most insurance plans.
Many of our patients say their only regret was not stopping in sooner.
Call us today at 702-852-2020 to get back your healthier legs.