Vein Doctor Recommendations for Swollen Legs and Ankles
Many people with varicose vein disease wonder how and why it causes their legs and ankles to swell. In short, swelling in the legs and ankles is a result of lymphatic system overload or failure. The job of the lymphatics is to filter and return 20% of a sticky moisture-like fluid that’s carrying oxygen and nutrients between cells back to the bloodstream. When the lymphatics are overloaded and unable to adequately return fluids to the bloodstream, swelling occurs.
So, what do varicose veins and the lymphatics have to do with one another and what do they have to do with leg and ankle swelling? First, the weak or damaged one-way valves in varicose veins allow blood to pool, which leads to increased pressure in the veins. This increased pressure prevents that sticky moisture-like fluid of the lymphatic circulation system from re-entering the veins. As a result, more fluid is pushed towards the lymphatic system which overloads it, and swelling occurs.
What Can You Do To Alleviate The Swelling?
Since the goal is to help out the lymphatic system by keeping blood circulating properly, there are a few recommendations you can try to reduce swelling in the legs and ankles.
Compression hose, or stockings, may alleviate some swelling by direct pressure as well as helping the calf muscle pump to contract more forcefully, redirecting fluid up the leg. However, compression hose will only help with regular use and will not prevent either the development or progression of varicose veins.
The swelling in your legs and ankles may worsen as the day progresses towards evening, the longer you are on your feet. Elevating your legs above your heart level for 10 to 15 minute intervals may reduce swelling. Elevating your legs allows gravity to naturally circulate any pooled blood in your leg veins toward your heart.
A few small European studies suggest that horse chestnut seed extract can help some people’s symptoms of swelling due to the active ingredient aescin. Take 50 mg doses twice a day for a month to see if it will help, but discontinue if you experience stomach symptoms. If you have other health issues or take prescription medicine don’t try the extract before asking your primary care physician or your vein specialist.
Why Do I Have Varicose Veins?
Professions that require a great deal of time spent standing—such as teachers, nurses, cashiers, and waitresses—raise the risk of developing varicose veins.
Being female comes with a higher risk of varicose veins as well, since the hormones progesterone and estrogen relax the thin muscle layer in the walls of the veins. Pregnancy also increases the risk because a woman’s blood volume surges immensely during pregnancy to supply the baby and placenta. The added blood volume adds pressure on the veins that may already be predisposed to fail due to genetics.
In fact, genetics are the leading indicator of whether or not you’ll develop varicose veins. If your parents and/or grandparents had them, chances are high that you’ll experience varicose veins to some degree as well. And you won’t be alone—varicose veins are quite prevalent in the United States. Over 30% of Americans experience some degree of venous insufficiency.
Varicose veins are a progressive, chronic condition, meaning that they will not improve or go away on their own. If self-care steps like wearing compression hose, elevating your legs, and trying horse chestnut seed extract aren’t effective in reducing the discomfort of swelling in your legs and ankles, it’s most likely time to consult a doctor who specializes in varicose vein treatments. Minimally invasive, in-office procedures are effective in treating the diseased veins and will relieve the pressure responsible for swelling.
Fortunately, ultrasound provides a detailed diagnosis and enables your vein specialist to determine specifically which veins are diseased, well beyond just what you may be able to see on the surface, and which treatments will be most effective in eliminating your disease.
Dr. Andrew Douglass at East Tennessee Vein Clinic has helped thousands have healthy legs that look and feel better. In 2001, Dr. Douglass opened the first dedicated vein clinic in Tennessee.
If you’d like to seek relief from symptoms of varicose veins like swelling, request a consultation with the experts at East Tennessee Vein Clinic in Knoxville, or call us at 865.686.0507, or toll-free at 866.281.VEIN.