Venous Insufficiency: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments
In the United States, an estimated 80% of men and 85% of women have varicose veins, reticular veins, or spider veins. These types of visible veins are caused by underlying vein disease, also known as venous insufficiency. Unfortunately, this progressive disease is much more than an aesthetic issue. Vein disease can lead to a range of painful and uncomfortable symptoms and impact your quality of life.
Venous insufficiency symptoms can vary widely and range from mild to severe. Although some people only feel occasional discomfort, others suffer from chronic pain that affects their ability to perform normal daily activities. Symptoms will become more painful or severe as vein disease progresses, so it’s important to be aware and seek treatment early on.
Common vein disease symptoms include:
- Swelling in your legs, ankles, and feet
- Cramps or achiness in the thigh or calf
- Tired or heavy legs
- Leg restlessness, especially at night
- Itchy, dry, or hardened skin on your legs
- Open, non-healing wounds on your legs and ankles
- Leg pain that is alleviated by walking or leg elevation
If you experience any of the above symptoms of vein disease in legs, consult with a vein specialist to learn how treatment can help you find relief.
There are many potential contributors to the development of vein disease, including genetics. If you have a close family member with varicose or spider veins, you may be at a higher risk for developing venous issues. Other risk factors include obesity, pregnancy, smoking, and being over age 50. Standing or sitting for long periods of time can also result in symptoms of vein disease in legs.
When left untreated, venous insufficiency can increase your risk for a number of serious dangerous health conditions, including blood clots and venous ulcers (open, non-healing wounds). We’ve provided additional information about vein disease symptoms below to help you stay informed so you can make the best decisions about your health.
Leg Vein Problems, Symptoms, and Signs
Some people may contribute their vein disease symptoms to normal aging, especially when symptoms are mild or infrequent. However, issues like swollen legs and painful leg cramps may indicate underlying health conditions and should be discussed with your doctor.
Additionally, it’s important to be aware of your symptoms because vein disease is a progressive condition. What starts off as mild discomfort can evolve into debilitating pain, limiting your mobility and impacting your quality of life. To avoid needless suffering and potential complications, seek early diagnosis and treatment.
If you’re experiencing any of the following venous insufficiency symptoms, schedule an appointment with an expert vein specialist to discuss your treatment options.
Leg swelling is a common sign of vein disease. This symptom is also known as venous edema. Some of our patients are surprised to learn that vein disease is behind over 90% of cases involving swollen legs. This type of swelling most often occurs in the lower legs, ankles, and feet, and can involve one or both legs.
You may be wondering why leg swelling is such a prevalent symptom of vein disease in legs. This is because when vein valves in your legs are placed under strain, they can become damaged. Damaged vein valves are not as effective at transporting blood back to your heart, especially when they have to work against gravity in your legs. In damaged veins, blood begins to flow backward or pool, which can lead to swelling and other symptoms in your lower extremities (legs, ankles, and feet).
When only the left leg becomes swollen, this may indicate May-Thurner syndrome. This condition occurs when the artery that supplies most of the blood to your lower extremities is compressed by a vein in your pelvis. May-Thurner syndrome increases your risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a serious blood clot that forms in the deep venous system.
Painful, sudden swelling on only one side can be a sign of deep vein thrombosis. If you experience DVT symptoms, it is critical to seek immediate medical attention.
Cramping in the Thigh or Calf
Leg cramping is another common sign of venous insufficiency. Most often, this problem occurs at night, but it can also occur after sitting, standing, or walking for prolonged periods of time. The severity of leg cramps due to vein disease can range from mild to intense. For some individuals, cramping can be severe enough to wake them up or prevent a good night’s sleep.
Visible Varicose and Spider Veins
Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted, visible veins. They can appear rope-like, bulging, and either blue, green, or purple. Spider veins are tiny, colorful vessels that develop in a web-like pattern. Unlike varicose veins, spider veins remain below the surface of the skin.
Both varicose and spider veins are signs of underlying vein disease. Along with their unattractive appearance, they can cause painful and uncomfortable symptoms like swelling, cramping, and fatigue.
Leg Fatigue or Heaviness
If you have vein disease, you may experience leg fatigue or heaviness. Some patients say that it feels as if they are wearing weights around their ankles, making it difficult to walk and move around.
Blood pooling in the legs due to venous insufficiency can lead to the sensation of your legs feeling heavier than normal. Leg swelling may further contribute to this sensation. This vein disease symptom is especially problematic because as leg fatigue and heaviness increase, you may find it more challenging to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Inactivity due to leg fatigue can make your symptoms worse and contribute to the progression of the disease.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is sometimes a sign of vein disease, though there can be other causes. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, an estimated 7 to 10% of the population may have RLS. This condition involves uncomfortable urges to move the legs that are only alleviated with movement. Urges tend to become worse in the evenings or at night while trying to sleep, often leading to sleep deprivation. Most commonly, the calves are affected.
If venous insufficiency is behind your RLS symptoms, vein treatment may bring relief so that you can finally get a good night’s rest.
Do you have dry, itchy skin near varicose veins? You may not realize that unhealthy veins can lead to skin changes, such as dryness, hardness, and shininess. Additionally, discolored or cracked skin may be signs of advanced vein disease. When left untreated, these skin changes can lead to venous ulcers (open, non-healing wounds), leaving you prone to serious infection.
Unfortunately, lotions and creams won’t help skin changes caused by unhealthy veins. Treatment of the underlying issue, vein disease, can help you find relief for your skin and other symptoms.
Burning and Itching Sensations
Sensations of burning or itchiness near visible veins may be signs of a condition called venous stasis dermatitis, another vein disease symptom. This condition occurs when damaged veins begin to leak blood into the surrounding tissue, making it difficult for enough oxygen to reach the skin.
If you are affected, you may notice that skin on your legs becomes red and itchy, or experience sensations of heat or burning on your calves or thighs.
Slow or Non-Healing Wounds
Another symptom caused when diseased veins leak and prevent your skin from receiving oxygen is venous ulcers, or open, non-healing wounds. Although they can occur anywhere on the lower extremities, venous ulcers tend to appear on the inside of the calves, just above the ankle.
Venous ulcers account for approximately 60 to 80% of all leg ulcers.
In other words, if you have a leg ulcer, there’s a good chance that it is a vein disease symptom.
Pain Relief When Legs Are Elevated
If you sigh with relief after putting your feet up, your veins may be to blame. Another venous insufficiency symptom is leg pain or discomfort that is alleviated with elevation.
While elevating your legs can bring much-needed relief to swelling, cramping, and fatigue, it’s important to seek treatment that can not only alleviate your symptoms but also prevent vein disease from progressing.
Discover Relief from Vein Disease Symptoms with USA Vein Clinics
If you suffer from vein disease symptoms like leg swelling or varicose veins, you’ve come to the right place. At USA Vein Clinics, our vein specialists offer minimally invasive treatment that can quickly alleviate your pain and discomfort.
Our highly-experienced specialists perform a range of non-surgical vein procedures, including:
- Endovenous Laser Therapy (EVLT)
- Varithena Vein Treatment
- Ultrasound-Guided Sclerotherapy
Our outpatient vein treatments are covered by most major insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid. If you have questions or wish to verify your individual coverage details, give us a call at 888.768.3467.
For personalized advice on how to improve your vein health, schedule an appointment today at one of our nationwide clinics.
 Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health