Complications Of Varicose Veins: Chronic Swelling
Tens of millions of people—up to 40% of women and 25% of men—suffer from varicose veins. Some of these people know they have varicose veins because they can visibly see the raised and ropey, purplish veins on the surface of the skin on their legs. However, most varicose vein disease is hidden beneath the surface of the skin, and it’s uncomfortable symptoms that lead people to wonder if they have varicose veins.
One of the most common uncomfortable symptoms of varicose veins is chronic swelling. Veins normally carry blood from the legs to the heart thanks to one-way valves inside the veins that push the blood against gravity towards the heart. When these valves weaken, blood is able to reflux, or fall back down into the veins below. High pressure from the backward flow down the vein initiates an inflammatory response within the vein, which causes swelling as well as other symptoms such as pain, leg fatigue, restlessness, and aching.
For those who suffer from swelling due to varicose veins, the discomfort typically worsens as the day progresses. Some say their swollen legs feel heavy, like lead weights. Swelling also may worsen with sitting or standing for long periods, and may be worse during menstrual cycles. Varicose veins can also cause swelling in the ankles and feet, due to poor circulation in the legs. For some people, chronic swelling in legs, ankles, or feet limits or prevents them from carrying on with daily activities.
For some people, chronic inflammation and swelling will cause the leg to become discolored or develop rashes. For a relative minority of people with untreated varicose veins, a condition called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) can develop. With CVI, swelling can become more pronounced and skin discoloration, skin ulcers, or other complications such as bleeding or clotting may develop.
An acute, sudden-onset painful, swollen leg is a very serious medical issue that isn’t the same as chronic swelling. If acute pain and swelling occurs, medical attention should be sought immediately.
Treatment of Chronic Swelling
There are self-care steps you can take to try to alleviate chronic swelling from varicose veins.
Compression stockings are often effective in reducing some swelling, as well as fatigue, leg pain, and aching. Compression stockings apply pressure on the veins in your legs, stimulating circulation to reduce pooling of blood in the veins. The stockings are available in three degrees of compression and should be put on in the morning, before swelling has a chance to build up over the course of the day.
You can purchase compression stockings at East Tennessee Vein Clinic or at a medical supply store, but it’s helpful to talk with a vein specialist first about your specific needs so that you are sure you’re wearing the proper grade of stocking.
Elevating your legs can be a very effective technique for relieving swelling, particularly at the end of the day when symptoms tend to be worse. Keeping your legs raised above heart level by propping them on pillows or an elevated surface for ten to twenty minutes a day gives your circulatory system a boost because when your legs are above heart level, it’s easier for blood to naturally circulate back to the heart.
In addition, exercising and managing your weight can help reduce chronic swelling from varicose veins. Being overweight adds more pressure on your legs, including the veins that are trying to pump blood against gravity back to the heart. Exercising will not only help you keep excess weight off, it will also stimulate blood circulation in your legs.
While these tips may help reduce swelling, keep in mind that varicose veins are a chronic and progressive condition. If swelling is consistently causing you discomfort or is getting in the way of participating in activities you enjoy, it’s time to consider medical treatment.
You’ll be glad to know that treatment for most varicose veins has advanced from what was once a hospital-based surgical procedure with a long recovery time to minimally-invasive treatments that can be done in a doctor’s office in under an hour, with little to no down-time. You don’t need a referral from your doctor to make an appointment with a vein specialist, and most varicose vein treatments are covered by insurance.
At East Tennessee Vein Clinic, our outpatient procedures are quick, safe, and effective. We treat not only the root cause of your varicose vein disease but also have extensive experience in treating the branches that others often fail or are unable to treat.
Ultrasound imaging allows us to see beneath the skin to the entire network of vein disease. Finding the root source of vein disease allows us to make an accurate diagnosis in order to treat the veins effectively in order to eliminate chronic swelling.
You don’t need to suffer from swelling or heaviness in your legs. Dr. Douglass and the staff at East Tennessee Vein Clinic are solely dedicated to the treatment of varicose veins, and lead the region in experience and expertise of vein treatments. We treat veins differently than other clinics because of our comprehensive attention to treating the root cause and full extent of each patient’s vein disease and vein treatment is all we do, every day, all day, since 2001.