6 Clear Signs It’s Time To See A Vein Doctor For Your Legs
If your legs hurt, ache, swell, throb, or feel itchy or restless at times, these symptoms could be related to varicose veins. But the problem for many people is that they assume the cause of their symptoms couldn’t be varicose veins since they don’t see any enlarged, purplish veins on the surface of their legs.
It’s certainly true that some people do indeed have the telltale bulging, darker-colored varicose veins that you can clearly see on their legs. However, the majority of varicose vein disease happens below the surface, which can’t be seen. In fact, those enlarged, ropey varicose veins that are visible on the legs are usually just the tip of the iceberg.
So how do you know if your uncomfortable symptoms are the result of varicose veins, and how do you know when it’s time to talk to a specialist about varicose vein treatments? Here are 6 no-nonsense, clear signs:
- Your legs ache, feel heavy, or swell at the end of the day, or after standing for long periods.
If your legs throb, ache, swell, or feel heavy or weak in general at the end of the day, or after you’ve been standing for periods of time, you should know that these are among the most common symptoms of varicose veins.
Symptoms of heavy, aching legs or swelling from varicose veins—often in one leg more than the other—typically get worse as the day goes on and after long periods of standing. This is caused by the structure of varicose veins, which become enlarged or swollen when the one-way valves in the veins are too weak to properly circulate blood back to the heart.
As a result, blood flows backwards and pools within the vein, which, over time, causes increased pressure in the vein that creates inflammation. As pressure and inflammation build up, it’s to be expected that the legs will feel heavy and ache, or become swollen.
- You have a rash, discoloration, or dry, itchy skin near your ankle.
If you have skin issues such as dryness, itchiness, discolored brownish skin, or a rash on your legs or around your ankles, these can be warning signs that you have vein problems that have been left untreated for too long.
Discolored skin, rashes or dry, itchy skin on your legs or ankles can be the result of the inflammation within your veins, which means your skin will suffer. If you continue to leave your vein problems untreated, the those skin issues could progress into something much worse—a venous leg ulcer.
You want to nip this problem in the bud before it reaches the point of an ulcer. Once it becomes an ulcer, you risk facing a painful and tough treatment process. So, if you notice discoloration in the skin on your calves or around your ankle, or dry, itchy skin, it’s definitely time to make an appointment with a vein doctor.
- You’ve developed an open sore on your calf or ankle that doesn’t heal.
As with skin discoloration, rashes, or itchiness, untreated varicose veins can ultimately lead to open sores or skin ulcers on your ankles or calves. When damaged veins have caused ongoing inflammation and pressure within the veins, white blood cells migrate to the inflammation. Again, like rashes and sores, this often occurs on the around the ankle but can also occur on the calf.
Open sores or ulcers are considered late-stage vein disease, and these venous ulcers can be extremely painful, not to mention unsightly, and they quite often limit one’s mobility and quality of life. Venous ulcers can also become easily infected, requiring antibiotic treatment and persistent wound care.
Skin ulcers caused by untreated varicose veins can take months to heal and—if not fully treated—are likely to recur. If not properly treated, some leg ulcers never fully heal. Because leg ulcers are notoriously difficult to treat, it’s wise to see a vein specialist as soon as possible if you have an open leg sore that isn’t healing as it should.
- You had problems with leg pain during a pregnancy and are planning to have another child.
For women who already had varicose veins before pregnancy, symptoms such as swelling, aching, throbbing, or pain often become worse during pregnancy due to venous pressure and hormones. Although symptoms subside after delivery for some women, varicose vein disease is chronic and tends to progress with each pregnancy. Symptoms are nearly guaranteed to be more painful with each pregnancy.
While it’s not advised to undergo treatment during pregnancy, it is recommended to have your varicose veins evaluated before pregnancy or while still pregnant if you’re experiencing uncomfortable leg symptoms. A vein specialist will be able to give you tips to safely ease symptoms during pregnancy.
It’s also critical to be evaluated quickly if you have severe pain, redness, or a sore-to-the-touch area of your leg. As one young mom experienced, clots can form in the superficial veins of the skin, and can be quite painful.
- The appearance of your legs keeps you from activities you would normally enjoy.
For some people, varicose veins are embarrassing because they cause bulging, twisted cord-like veins to appear on the surface of their legs. In these cases, it’s not uncommon for people to avoid wearing shorts or skirts that will show their legs. In fact, many people avoid activities they once enjoyed, like swimming or vacationing on the beach with their families, because they prefer to hide their legs.
On top of the cosmetic consequences, because bulging varicose veins often cause symptoms like swelling, aching, heavinessness, cramping, or restless legs, they can also cause a person to avoid activities they once enjoyed.
- Your primary care doctor recommends a specialist’s diagnosis.
If your primary care doctor suggests that you see a vein doctor to determine if your symptoms are related to varicose veins, he or she is by no means showing a lack of competence or unwillingness to determine the cause.
The strength of primary care physicians is that they’re able to hear your concerns and recommend next steps that can help you be as healthy as possible. While they are knowledgeable about all systems of the human body, are not expected to be experts in diagnosing and treating each medical condition.
For example, if there’s any question that your chest pain may be related to heart disease, your primary care or family doctor will refer you to a heart specialist who has the advanced training and tools to diagnose and treat potential problems. The same principle applies if there’s a question about whether varicose veins could be responsible for your symptoms.
Finally, remember that varicose veins are a chronic and progressive condition, so symptoms like swelling, aching, heaviness, pain, itchiness, or restless legs become worse the longer they are left untreated.
At East Tennessee Vein Clinic, you’ll find the help you need so that you don’t have to suffer from symptoms of varicose veins. When our patients learn that today’s advanced treatments are quick and require little to no down time—plus are typically covered by insurance—they’re glad they didn’t delay treatment any longer.
Our process and procedures are designed to thoroughly diagnose and treat your varicose veins, each step of the way. To show you how, we created an infographic that summarizes the 5 steps of the varicose vein treatment process:
As the first physician dedicated solely to the treatment of varicose vein disease in Tennessee, Dr. Douglass and East Tennessee Vein Clinic leads the region in experience and expertise of varicose veins. We treat varicose veins differently than other clinics precisely because of our dedication to treating the root cause and the full extent of each patient’s varicose vein disease.