When to Worry About Leg Pain

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
When to worry about leg pain

Leg pain can be distracting and impact your quality of life, mess up a good night's sleep, limit mobility, and keep you from things you enjoy. Pain in the lower legs, ankles, and feet is a common complaint, but it's essential to your health to know when to seek medical treatment for leg pain and discomfort.

Understanding leg pain signs and symptoms that indicate a problem or a severe underlying issue can help you proactively maintain your vein health and, importantly, overall health.

Is My Leg Pain Serious?

Leg pain can slow you down, no doubt. It's a common symptom most patients experience from childhood to old age. From occasional mild discomfort that goes away with self-care and rest to persistent, severe pain that requires treatment, understanding the cause of your leg pain and knowing the warning signs can help you protect your health.

Common, nonurgent causes of leg pain can include:

  • Muscle Strain: Overexertion caused by being on your feet all day or not warming up before a workout can lead to muscle strains, pain, discomfort, and stiffness.

  • Muscle Cramps: Muscle cramps can be caused by tight muscles, being dehydrated, being low on minerals like potassium, or even your sleeping position.

  • Injury: Bumps, bruises, and overuse injuries can cause leg pain, especially for athletes or people who engage in repetitive tasks and can experience joint pain, muscle fatigue, or even fracture or sprain.

  • Arthritis: Arthritis is inflammation of the joints and can cause leg pain and stiffness, significantly impacting your mobility and ability to stay active.

  • History of Injury: You may experience leg pain if you have an old injury that's healed over time.

  • Lifestyle: A sedentary lifestyle can cause weakness and leg pain, and an overactive lifestyle can cause inflammation and overuse injuries.

This leg pain can be treated at home using rest, applying ice or heat, compression stockings, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, and elevating the feet and legs.

Leg Pain Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore

Leg pain can indicate it's time to talk to your doctor about vein disease and your vein health or ask for a referral to a vein specialist. While vein disease is treatable, it can lead to more serious medical issues.

Seek medical attention immediately if you're experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Sudden severe leg pain with no known cause

  • Warmth radiating from the calf or from under the knee

  • Sudden skin changes such as redness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Confusion

  • Chest pains

  • Sudden swelling of one or both legs

These could be symptoms of a serious condition called deep vein thrombosis or DVT. A DVT is a blood clot deep in a vein, usually in the leg. Blood clots can travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism, which is a medical emergency.

Varicose Veins and Leg Pain

Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins that commonly appear on the legs. While they may not always be painful, symptoms of varicose veins include:

  • Aching or throbbing in the legs, especially after prolonged sitting, standing, or exertion

  • Heavy, uncomfortable feeling in the legs

  • Itching, warmth, and a burning sensation near the veins

Varicose veins can be a symptom of vein disease, also known as chronic venous insufficiency. Varicose veins are caused when the one-way valves in the vein become damaged or weakened, causing blood to pool in the veins.

When blood pools in the veins, it weakens the vein wall and becomes enlarged. This increased pressure causes inflammation and discomfort.

Risk factors for developing varicose veins include:

Tell your doctor if you have the sudden appearance of new varicose veins or are experiencing pain or discomfort with skin irritation near the affected vein. Sudden irritation or the formation of new varicose veins could be a sign of inflammation in the vein or phlebitis. It's always a good idea to mention any leg pain to your doctor, along with any changes to the veins in your legs, so that you can rule out any serious underlying causes.

Leg Pain Accompanied by Skin Changes

Leg pain that comes with skin changes can be a symptom of chronic venous insufficiency. Talk to your doctor if you've developed skin ulcers or non-healing wounds on the legs around the ankles. Skin changes should be taken very seriously and are often a visual indication that you should seek a medical opinion, as it could be a symptom of venous eczema, also known as stasis dermatitis. Recognizing the early signs of venous eczema is a necessary intervention in preventing complications.

Venous eczema is caused when oxygen can't reach the skin due to weakened vein walls and valves caused by venous insufficiency or a history of damage to the vascular system in the leg.

Talk to your doctor if you're experiencing leg pain with sudden unknown skin changes, including:

  • Pain, itching, and discomfort

  • Dry, scaly, red, blue or brownish patches

  • Open sores

  • Changes to the skin texture or a "woody" feeling

  • Crusty or hard patches on the skin

Unexplained leg pain that comes with skin changes can indicate an underlying chronic venous insufficiency and vein disease.

Seek immediate medical attention if you have any pain accompanied by sudden skin changes, redness, warmth, or swelling radiating suddenly from the leg, as it can indicate a medical emergency. Center for Vein Restoration offers services to help you rule out a DVT. Call our hotline at 877-SCAN-DVT.

Swelling and Leg Pain

Swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet is called edema. Edema can be caused by pregnancy, sitting or standing for long periods, a high-salt diet, or even the weather. Pay attention to your leg pain, especially if it's accompanied by unexplained swelling.

Talk to your doctor if you're experiencing leg pain and swelling accompanied by:

  • A sudden onset of swelling in one leg, especially accompanied by calf or thigh pain

  • Chronic leg swelling that worsens without cause

  • Your skin becomes tight, shiny, and discolored, or you've developed a sore or weeping wound

  • Swelling and leg pain that impacts your daily activities and limits your mobility

  • If the swollen area retains a dent when applying pressure, it is called "pitting edema."

Leg pain with a heavy, aching feeling and swelling can indicate vein disease or venous insufficiency. If untreated, venous insufficiency can lead to the development of DVT or blood clots. Report any unexplained or persistent swelling to your vein specialist.

Your vein specialist will help you understand the underlying cause and help create a treatment plan to alleviate the symptoms and target any concerning diagnostics.

You should always report new or concerning swelling to your medical provider; however, you can relieve the discomfort of mild to moderate edema using compression stockings.

Compression stockings can help manage pain and swelling by improving leg circulation and removing inflammation and congestion.

When used in tandem with elevation and lifestyle changes like keeping hydrated and reducing salt intake, compression stockings can help alleviate swelling caused by venous insufficiency or vein disease.

Persistent Leg Pain

It's not normal to be in constant pain without relief. Talk to your doctor if you have persistent leg pain that doesn't get better with lifestyle changes and is accompanied by:

Tell your vein specialist if you're experiencing leg pain that's not associated with a recent injury or feels like a heavy ache, accompanied by a burning or tingling sensation, especially if it's not responding to rest, elevation or lifestyle changes and is impacting your quality of life and mobility.

Persistent leg pain can indicate that it's time to talk to your vein specialist and rule out any serious underlying causes. Chronic leg pain can also be caused by a history of trauma to the leg, complications from diabetes, arthritis, and other complications that aren't related to your vascular health.

Seek immediate medical attention if you have persistent or sudden onset leg pain accompanied by shortness of breath, radiating warmth, swelling, chest pains, or trouble breathing, as it could indicate a medical emergency.

Treating Vascular Leg Pain at Center for Vein Restoration

Leg pain is a manageable symptom once you understand the root cause. While many causes of leg pain can be attributed to nonurgent causes like lifestyle factors, injuries, cramps, or arthritis, it's vital to recognize when your leg pain needs medical attention.

Most often, leg pain symptoms have everyday causes that can improve with lifestyle changes and self-care.

At Center for Vein Restoration (CVR), we provide expert vein care, helping you get to the root of your leg pain by providing minimally invasive treatment solutions. You don't have to live with leg pain holding you back from the things you love, impacting your mobility, or interrupting your night's sleep.

Ask your CVR vascular specialist about your leg pain and how we can help. CVR accepts Aetna, Amerigroup, Anthem, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, MultiPlan, Medicaid, and Medicare. Connect with one of our efficient and friendly Patient Service Representatives, or request your consultation at a CVR facility near you. Please call 240-965-3915 or schedule online today.

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