Medically Reviewed by Carmen M. Piccolo, DO
Swelling in your legs and ankles. New varicose veins. Legs that are restless, heavy, tired, aching or discolored.
These are the typical signs of a painful and potentially dangerous disease of your blood vessels.
“In the body, arteries carry fresh blood from the heart to body parts while veins return blood to the heart for re-oxygenation,” says McLeod Vascular Surgeon Dr. Carmen Piccolo. “The veins in your leg have valves that open and close, pushing the blood upward to the heart. When the vein walls are weakened or these valves are damaged, not all the blood gets pumped upward. Blood stays in the veins and long-term Chronic Venous Insufficiency or CVI develops. It happens to more women than men and can appear in pregnancy.”
One of the most common causes of CVI is blood clots in the deeper veins in the leg. This deep vein thrombosis or DVT increases pressure in the vein and leads to failure of the valves. As the blood pools, the legs swell (a condition known as edema).
ARE YOU AT RISK?
Nearly 40% of women and 20% of men have significant leg vein problems by age 50. Factors that can lead to CVI include:
When you see a Vascular Specialist, they may use an ultrasound to see the blood flow in your legs. In some cases, a CT scan or MRI will be used to evaluate the veins, look for blockages and to monitor the blood flow.
There’s much you can do to help reduce the swelling and pain.
If your condition is serious, you may develop wounds from the skin breaking down. These need aggressive care to avoid infection or complications. Your physician may direct you to a special Wound Care Clinic.
WHEN YOU NEED SURGERY
Your Vascular Specialist may suggest one of several options that will either clear or seal off varicose veins:
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
Schedule an appointment with your personal physician or a Vascular Specialist, if:
Find a Vascular Specialist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, New England Journal of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, American Venous Forum, Lymphedema Blog, Annals of Epidemiology, Vascular Disease Foundation, American Heart Association, Society for Vascular Surgery