If you notice swelling and pain in your legs, blood pooling in the leg veins may be the cause.
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) affects about 40 percent of the U.S. population. But most people aren’t aware of its underlying cause and signs.
Blood pooling in the leg leads to CVI, causing several uncomfortable symptoms. While varicose veins are probably the most visible indication of CVI, other symptoms include swelling, pain, itchy and scaly skin, cramping, and a distinct feeling of heaviness in the leg. But perhaps you’re wondering, “What causes the blood pooling in the first place?” It has to do with how your veins transport blood to the heart.
How blood pooling develops
Your leg veins are lined with tiny valves that open and close to push blood upward to your heart. These valves can weaken from age, excess weight, a sedentary lifestyle, genetics, and gender. When the valves fail, they allow blood to backflow and pool within the veins. This continual blood pooling eventually shows up as swollen ankles and calves, pain, heaviness, cramping, and varicose veins. Fortunately, a board-certified vein expert can successfully treat CVI.
CVI is not life-threatening. However, it’s a progressive, chronic condition that can significantly diminish your quality of life.
How to stop the blood pooling in your legs
Without treatment, CVI can progress to more severe complications, including skin ulcers and blood clots. A clot that develops within a deep leg vein is called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). See your doctor immediately if you notice swelling, warm skin, or pain. Treatment can prevent the clot from moving to the lungs, where it may cause a potentially life-threatening pulmonary embolism (PE).
Your doctor may recommend trying these conservative methods first to relieve symptoms:
Walking. A 30-minute walk daily can greatly improve your circulation. When you walk, your calf muscles “pump” the blood through the veins, which can minimize blood pooling. If you’re in the Anchorage and Fairbanks area, consider taking advantage of a stroll in Denali National Park and Preserve.
Putting up your feet. Elevating your legs above your heart daily for as little as 20 minutes is a simple activity to get the blood moving in the right direction.
Wearing compression stockings. If you sit all day at work or are on a long plane ride, wear compression stockings. The tightly woven garments gently squeeze the leg veins to keep the blood moving.
Living a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise and a diet with fruits, vegetables, and lean meats will boost your vein health. Water retention can strain the veins, so avoid sodium-heavy foods. Cigarettes damage not only arteries but veins, too. If you're a smoker, now is the time to quit.
While helpful, these self-care treatments will only relieve symptoms. They don’t treat the underlying problem: damaged veins and poor circulation. However, several minimally invasive, one-hour surgical procedures can eliminate the diseased veins. Once the vein is destroyed, it can no longer carry blood. Blood then diverts to healthy veins, significantly reducing the chance of blood pooling.
Vein treatment available in Alaska
Tired of leg swelling and pain? Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) operates two full-service Alaska vein care offices in Fairbanks and Anchorage. Each is led by a board-certified professional experienced in treating every stage of venous insufficiency.
Peter Liao, MD, Ph.D., has spent more than two decades helping patients live without the discomfort of varicose veins. A leader in the field of vascular disease, Dr. Liao teaches other vein physicians. He is assisted by Cynthia "CJ" Smith, PA-C, a certified physician assistant. She educates her patients about chronic venous insufficiency, applying her advanced education and training to help her patients overcome the distressing symptoms of vein disease.
Contact their offices today for a consultation or to speak to a representative. You may also schedule online at your convenience.
Find a CVR facility near you if you don't live in Alaska.