Our legs have something to say about our health, and it’s never too early to start listening.
Problems with leg health can affect the entire body. That’s why ignoring symptoms like pain, numbness, or heaviness can have a severe impact on your long-term health. The good news is, there are simple steps we can all take to keep our legs as healthy as possible for years to come.
Walking and Talking: Listening to What Your Legs are Trying to Say.
If you are experiencing discomfort or unusual symptoms in your legs, you may be suffering from a condition that impairs your leg health. There are diseases that affect leg health that you’ll want to know about.
Top 10 signs and symptoms you don’t want to ignore:
- Swollen legs, feet, or ankles
- Muscle spasms
- Wounds that won’t heal
- Weakness or pain while walking
- Burning or cold sensations
- Spider-like vein patterns
- Bulging, swelling, or pain in veins
- Changes in skin color
- Heaviness or pain in legs after walking
- Electric shock sensation
If you are experiencing one or more symptoms, it’s important to talk with your doctor about your leg health.
Keeping Your Legs Healthy: 7 Steps to Start Taking Today
Walk. Daily exercise is important for overall health; but brisk walking, in particular, is one of the greatest ways to promote good circulation. Just 30 minutes per day can decrease your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, all of which compromise leg health.
Maintain a healthy weight. Fluctuations in weight can cause stress on the body. Finding the balance that is just right for you and maintaining an ideal body weight can contribute to overall health and eliminate excess strain on your body.
Avoid smoking and vaping. Inhalation of the chemicals found in cigarettes and vaping products can be harmful to your blood cells and impair the function of your heart and blood vessels. Smoking increases your risk factors for a variety of medical conditions, including venous insufficiency or arterial diseases. If you are a current smoker, ask your doctor about a cessation program that’s right for you.
Take frequent breaks. Taking the time to stretch and hydrate throughout the day is a small step that can make a significant impact. Stretching, especially if you sit for long periods of time, will promote circulation and blood flow. Being vigilant to drink about eight glasses of water a day can help keep your blood pressure within healthy limits.
Know the signs, symptoms, and risk factors. Talk with your doctor if you have swelling, muscle spasms, or wounds that won’t heal. Weakness or pain while walking, changes in skin color, and burning or cold sensations are other symptoms you don’t want to ignore. If you notice spider-like vein patterns, bulging veins, or heaviness in the legs after walking, there are treatment options that could provide great relief.
Don’t forget to take your medicine. Stay diligent about following the prescribed daily dosage on any medications you may have. Maintaining control of your blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, diabetes, and/or kidneys, is a vital part of staying healthy.
Eat a balanced diet. Avoid foods that are high in sodium, sugar, and/or saturated or trans fats. Instead, choose meals that are rich in vitamins and minerals with a proper balance of proteins, healthy fats, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables. Ask your doctor if you have questions about a diet that’s right for you.
Peripheral Arterial Disease
If you’re experiencing pain in your legs when walking, resting, or at night, you may have peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
What is peripheral arterial disease?
Eight to ten million people in the U.S. suffer from PAD. This disease is characterized by poor blood flow to their arms, legs, or feet. If left untreated, this systemic, whole-body condition may lead to heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, severe leg pain, ulceration, infections, and/or amputation. PAD accounts for the majority of leg and foot amputations in the United States.
- Painful cramping in the leg while walking
- Numbness, tingling, and weakness in the lower legs and feet
- Burning or aching pain in feet or toes when resting
- Slow healing sore on leg or foot
- Lower temperature in one leg
- Color change in skin of legs or feet
- Loss of hair on legs
- Pain in the legs or feet that awakens you at night
Risk factors for PAD:
- Family history of vascular disease
- Smoking history
- Being overweight
- Lack of activity
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Treatment for PAD:
- Lifestyle changes that increase activity
- Medication to lower cholesterol
- Smoking Cessation
- Medication to control blood pressure
- Minimally invasive treatments including balloon angioplasty, stent placement, and/or atherectomy
- Surgery to bypass the blocked artery
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition in which a blood clot forms in a deep vein in the leg or arm. DVT can affect people of all ages but risk factors increase after age 50 and with certain conditions, such as cancer, recent surgery, recent trauma, and extended periods of immobility. Left untreated, DVT can cause permanent leg damage. There is also a risk that the blood clot could break off and travel to the lungs, causing a potentially deadly pulmonary embolism. The Society of Interventional Radiology estimates that one in every 100 people who develop DVT dies from a pulmonary embolism.
Treatment for DVT includes:
- Blood-thinning medications. If you suffer from DVT, your doctor may prescribe a medication to aid in proper blood flow and to prevent new clots from forming.
- Catheter-directed thrombolysis. This is a minimally-invasive procedure that breaks up the clot to restore proper blow flow. The procedure requires a 24- to 72-hour intensive care hospital stay.
- Isolated pharmacomechanical thrombolysis. Also known as IPMT, this is a newer, minimally-invasive procedure used to break up the clot. An overnight hospital stay is required.
- Inferior vena cava filter. This is a medical device that is implanted to help prevent pulmonary embolisms.
What is venous insufficiency?
One of the most common signs of venous insufficiency is spider veins. Many people have them and they are not always cause for concern. However, the struggle with spider veins is not simply cosmetic. If you notice clusters of spider veins on your legs, you could be suffering from venous insufficiency.
Top 5 symptoms of venous insufficiency:
- Pain after walking or standing for long periods of time
- Itchiness around one or more veins
Venous Reflux Disease
If you suffer from varicose veins, it is important to know that some cases are just cosmetic, but often the result of a deeper health condition, like venous reflux disease.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are large, dilated veins just beneath the skin. Many avoid addressing them because they think they are just a cosmetic issue, but the truth is that they are often a result of a deeper health condition: superficial venous reflux disease. Veins have one-way valves that close to prevent the blood from pooling at the ankles. When the valves are damaged or become stretched out, the blood pools and causes the veins to enlarge. This is what causes those puffy veins most often seen on the legs, calves, and ankles.
Symptoms of venous reflux disease include:
- Pain in the legs
Treatment for varicose veins
Fortunately, treatments for varicose veins have progressed and now provide a quick recovery from a minimally-invasive procedure. These procedures are performed same-day, and most patients drive themselves home. You can return to work the following day, but it is recommended that you avoid swimming, water aerobics, or other water-based activities during your recovery period. We would also advise against doing a core workout or lifting more than five pounds. However, running and walking are encouraged. The recovery period usually lasts two weeks.
Our most popular varicose vein treatments, EndoVenous Laser Treatment (EVLT) and Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) offer:
- Treatments lasting less than an hour
- 93-98% success rate
- Immediate relief from symptoms
- Rapid return to normal activities
- Minimal to no scarring
Schedule Your Consultation at VIVA
If you are experiencing any discomfort in your legs or have a history of circulatory problems, it’s time to schedule a leg evaluation. Our high level of expertise offers greater assurances than most vein centers can provide. Our physicians will evaluate your specific needs and select the appropriate therapy. Call (804) 486-4625 to schedule an appointment with an expert today. Our Board Certified, Fellowship Trained Interventional Radiologists and Vascular Surgeons use a minimally-invasive approach to develop a plan that's right for you.