Venous Insufficiency: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments
Venous insufficiency, also commonly known as vein disease, is most often associated with visible vein symptoms such as varicose or spider veins. Many believe that these unsightly veins are simply a cosmetic issue, but unfortunately, this isn’t true. In fact, vein disease can cause a variety of painful, undesirable symptoms that can potentially impact your quality of life.
Typical vein disease symptoms include:
- Swelling in your legs and ankles
- Cramps or achy-ness in the thigh or calf
- Tired or heavy legs – (common for vein disease in legs)
- Restlessness, especially at night
- Itchy, dry, or hardened skin on your legs
- Wounds on your legs or ankles that take a long time to heal or don’t heal at all
- Leg pain that goes away when you walk or elevate your legs
Not everyone will experience the same leg vein problems. Symptoms of vein disease can vary widely depending on many different lifestyle factors. While some people may only feel pain once in a while, others suffer through chronic pain, which can impact their overall well-being.
If you are experiencing any of the above venous insufficiency symptoms, please contact your doctor. When left untreated, vein disease can lead to serious health conditions. Potential issues include the development of blood clots or venous ulcers (non-healing wounds).
If you have vein disease in your family medical history, you may be at a higher risk for developing the condition. Other risk factors include being obese or overweight, pregnant, or over the age of sixty. Standing or sitting for prolonged periods can also result in vein disease symptoms.
Continue reading if you want to learn more about your symptoms of vein disease in legs, ankles, and feet. We can help you determine whether venous insufficiency could be the underlying cause.
Common Vein Disease Symptoms
It can be easy to disregard your vein disease symptoms, especially if they are not severe. Many people put off getting checked for vein disease because they think their symptoms are a result of aging. Venous insufficiency is a progressive disease that can worsen over time. Symptoms of vein disease in legs may start off as a mild discomfort and ultimately become debilitating if left untreated.
If you notice any of the below venous insufficiency symptoms, you should contact a vascular specialist to discuss available vein treatment options.
Venous edema, the type of swelling associated with vein disease, most often occurs in the lower legs, ankles, and feet. Leg swelling can also be a sign of vein disease, affecting over 90% of swollen leg cases. Inflammation in the legs is often overlooked as a symptom of underlying venous insufficiency.
Swelling may involve one or both legs. It typically occurs when vein valves become damaged, making it difficult to go against gravity and efficiently return blood to the heart. This often results in blood pooling in the lower extremities’ veins, which causes inflammation to occur. If only one leg is swollen, this may indicate a serious blockage also known as May-Thurner Syndrome. Any leg swelling should be properly evaluated by a medical professional.
Cramping in the Thigh or Calf
Leg cramping is another common venous insufficiency symptom that often occurs at night. It can be severe enough to wake you from your sleep. Leg cramps can range in intensity from mild to severe. Standing or sitting for long periods may also induce cramping in the thigh or calf.
Leg cramping can also occur after standing or walking for extensive periods of time. Jobs that require this, like construction workers or teachers, may become too painful to endure. Many people with venous insufficiency may avoid activities with their friends or family that require extensive standing if the cramping is not addressed.
Visible Varicose or Spider Veins
Varicose veins often appear rope-like, bulging, or enlarged and may be either blue, green, or purple. These veins become enlarged when blood is allowed to pool and back up within the veins of the lower extremities. This is caused by your valves improperly regulating blood flow from your legs back up towards your heart.
Varicose veins are often a visible sign of venous insufficiency, also known as vein disease. Varicose veins may also be accompanied by spider veins, which are typically smaller and not raised. Spider veins may appear right below the skin’s surface and is an early indication of vein disease in the legs.
Leg Fatigue or Heaviness
For those who have not experienced heavy legs, it may seem like an odd feeling. People who have experienced this vein disease symptom describe it like their legs feel difficult to move or lift up. It can also feel like there are weights strapped to your legs.
When the blood begins to pool in your legs, this can lead to your legs feeling heavier than normal. Another reason legs may feel heavier is the amount of swelling you may experience in your lower body. As leg fatigue or heaviness increases, it can become more challenging to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Restless leg syndrome, otherwise known as RLS, is a condition that may lead to uncomfortable sensations in the legs. It is most often experienced in the calves. People with RLS typically feel the urge to move their legs. This urge usually intensifies in the evenings or at night when trying to sleep.
Several studies over the years have indicated that close to 22% of all RLS cases are caused by vein disease in legs. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 98% of patients who were suffering with RLS saw significant vein disease symptom relief after receiving non-surgical vein treatment.
People are often unaware that underlying venous insufficiency can lead to skin changes. It can be easy to discount your symptoms as something else, especially in the winter or when seasons change. Poor circulation due to damaged vein valves can lead to dry, hardened, or shiny skin. Many people think applying lotion will help; however, fixing the root of the issue is the best path to vein disease symptom relief.
In addition, venous insufficiency can cause skin to become cracked or discolored, which can lead to venous ulcers if left untreated. It’s important to see a doctor if you notice slow or non-healing open wounds on your lower extremities.
Burning or Itching Sensation
The feeling of itchiness on or around your veins may be a result of a condition known as venous stasis dermatitis. When blood builds up in damaged vessels, it can eventually leak out into the skin and surrounding tissues. The leaky blood vessels and associated inflammation may lead to not enough oxygen reaching your skin.
Over time, the skin over the veins may become red and itchy. Some people describe the burning sensation as a feeling of hotness on the backs of their calves or thighs. This symptom may get worse and become more prominent in the warm, summer months.
Slow or Non-Healing Wounds
Venous ulcers are defined as abnormal breaks in the skin or mucous membrane. This long-lasting vein disease symptom is a sore or wound that is typically characterized as slow-healing or non-healing. Ulcers are known to take more than five to six weeks to heal. Although leg ulcers can develop anywhere on the leg or foot, they usually develop on the inside of the calf, just above the ankle. 80% of all ulcers of the lower limb are caused by vein disease in legs.
When veins become damaged, it may cause a leakage of fluid through the veins, resulting in swelling of the limbs. This swelling further prevents the flow of blood to the tissue in the leg, causing the formation of an ulcer.
Leg Pain and Elevation
Are you one of those people who have a lot of pillows on your bed to prop up your legs? You might think this is just for comfort, but it could stem from a bigger problem. People who suffer from vein disease often find it helpful to prop their legs up at night. Leg pain from vein disease tends to subside when the legs become elevated. If you find yourself sighing with relief when you put your legs up at night, this may indicate symptoms of vein disease in legs.
Find Treatment Near You
If you are suffering from vein disease symptoms like pain, swelling, heaviness, and itchiness, we have good news. At USA Vein Clinics, our vein experts offer non-surgical treatment that can quickly bring you relief. Throughout our 80+ nationwide locations, we perform specialized vein procedures like:
- Endovenous Laser Therapy (EVLT)
- Varithena Vein Treatment
- Ultrasound-guided Sclerotherapy
Our vein treatment is covered by most major insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid. If you want to discuss your individual coverage details, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 888.768.3467.
When you are ready to get started on the road to recovery, simply schedule an appointment online. For your safety and convenience, we are offering the option to conduct your appointment through telemedicine.