Vein Disease and Fatigue
Vein Disease, also known as Chronic Venous Insufficiency, is a common condition that affects nearly 40% of Americans.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of vein disease is essential to slowing the progression of the condition and protecting your health.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency
Our arteries work hard to transport blood away from our heart to the rest of our body. In turn, our veins carry our blood back up to our heart for oxygenation. Inside our veins are tiny, one-way valves that open and shut, pushing our blood upwards towards our heart, preventing blood from pooling in the lower limbs.
When these special one-way valves are damaged and no longer work properly, blood can flow backward and pool inside the veins of the legs and feet. Over time, there is a build-up of pressure inside the veins due to the increased blood volume, eventually rupturing small capillaries and allowing blood to seep into nearby tissues.
This process is known as chronic venous insufficiency. The longer this condition progresses without medical intervention or lifestyle changes, more severe symptoms may begin to set in.
What Causes CVI
CVI occurs when blood supply is no traveling efficiently back to the heart. The one-way valves responsible for pushing blood flow towards the heart, slowly begin to allow a backflow of blood to pool in the lower limbs.
The most common causes of CVI include:
- Family history and genetics
- Varicose veins
- Blood clot
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
- Lack of exercise or leading a sedentary lifestyle
- Sitting or standing for prolonged periods
- Injury to the leg
- Phlebitis (swelling of a vein)
What Are the Symptoms of CVI
There are several symptoms associated with CVI, which will range in severity depending on how far the condition has advanced.
Below are signs and symptoms of vein disease:
- Varicose Veins
- Leg cramping
- Swelling of the legs, ankles or feet
- Leg discoloration
- Changes in skin texture
- Tightness around the ankles or calves
- Heavy legs
- Itchy legs
- Pain that increases the longer you are on your feet
- Leg ulcers
As noted above, symptoms may vary, and severity typically coincides with how advanced your particular case is.
Venous disease can lead to overall feels of heaviness and fatigue in the legs, especially if you are on your feet for prolonged periods. Heaviness and leg fatigue is a sign that the one-way valves in the leg are not working efficiently, causing the vein walls to stretch.
Once the walls of the vein are stretched or dilated, the valves become weakened, allowing blood to leak and flow backward in the lower limbs.
Individuals may also experience, in addition to leg fatigue and heaviness, an overall sense of fatigue and exhaustion due to oxygen not circulating properly in the lower limbs.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Another symptom related to CVI is restless leg syndrome. This syndrome causes you to experience an intense need or urge to move your legs, often occurring at night, causing severe sleep interruption.
Symptoms vary from sensations of itching, crawling, aching, or spontaneous leg movements.
While stretching and moving your legs can help relieve the symptoms, sleep is often impaired, contributing to an overall sense of fatigue.
How Am I Diagnosed CVI?
If you believe you may have CVI, it is essential to contact your doctor to schedule a consultation.
Your doctor will likely perform a physical examination, as well as discuss your symptoms, medical history, as well as any risk factors.
Also, your doctor may order a venous ultrasound or duplex ultrasound to get a more in-depth look inside your veins. A venous ultrasound evaluates the blood flow and structure of the veins. A duplex ultrasound can determine the direction and speed of blood flow.
What Treatment is Available for CVI
There are several treatments available that can help slow the progression, varying from non-medical, lifestyle changes to surgery in more severe cases.
Should you be experiencing mild symptoms, your doctor may prescribe the use of compression stockings, in addition to specific lifestyle changes.
Compression stockings apply pressure at the ankle and lower leg, increasing the upward flow of blood back towards the heart and away from pooling in the lower limbs.
In addition to compression stockings, the following changes may help ease your symptoms:
- Maintain a healthy diet and weight
- Stay hydrated
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid standing or sitting for prolonged periods
- Elevate your legs above your heart
- Stop smoking
If the above lifestyle changes do not improve your symptoms, you should contact your doctor or vein specialist to discuss additional treatments available.
Several non-invasive procedures are available to treat varying stages of CVI, which can help slow the progression of the condition, as well as increase your quality of life.