I have found over the years providing testing and education that there are many patients who don’t recognize that they have a medical problem. Many of the symptoms are occult in nature and progress during a time that there are significant lifestyle and body changes. While it is easy to recognize visual changes such as bulging veins, other symptoms such as heaviness, tiredness, and cramping at night may be considered normal aging to some individuals. Many of these changes as individuals transition from their twenty’s into their thirties or forties.
Venous insufficiency is the underlying cause of varicose veins and can be the cause of the above symptoms. It can take years before large bulging veins appear, thus the average person does not consider seeing a specialist. Advertisements are generally toward women and focus on the signs (varicose veins, spider veins) rather than the symptoms. In most cases patients don’t communicate these type of symptoms to their primary physician. If they do, they may not be investigated by having a venous ultrasound for venous insufficiency.
The most common symptom of venous disease is swelling of the legs or ankles. It is amazing how many patients will say they don’t have swelling but to the trained eye it is apparent. A good way to test is to examine your ankles or legs when removing socks. Do you have significant lines of demarcation? If so, you probably are having mild swelling. Another indication is swelling after long flights.
Another indication is trouble sleeping. Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is often diagnosed in individuals who don’t have bulging varicose veins. RLS is related to venous insufficiency and thus wearing support hose or seeing a vein specialist is suggested if the symptoms interfere with the ability to get a good night sleep.
Pigment changes are another area that patients often overlook or don’t address with their primary physician. Chronic venous insufficiency causes a backup in the venous system. This back up prevents un-oxygenated blood from getting back to the heart and lungs. When the blood doesn’t move is causes venous stasis. The long-standing venous insufficiency can cause Lipodermatosclerosis or (LDS). LDS literally means “scarring of the skin and fat” and usually is a gradual process that is located on the inner calf and ankle. The skin starts of changing colours to brown, becomes smooth, tight and can become painful later on. The bad news is once this skin has been permanently damaged it is irreversible. Treatment can only stop the progression to the next stage in venous disease the venous ulcer. A patient with pigment changes or signs of LDS should seek a vein specialist.
The signs and symptoms of varicose veins will differ among people. The physical side effects beyond the visual may include discoloration, heaviness, soreness, swelling and tiredness. Do you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one? If so take our online vein screening tool or schedule an appointment with a vein specialist before your or their health worsens.