WHY ARE HEALTHY LEG SOLUTIONS IMPORTANT?
Vascular disorders are among the most common chronic conditions in North America and should be taken seriously. In fact, more people lose time from work from vein disorders than artery disease. By the age of 50, nearly 40% of women and 20% of men have significant leg vein problems. It is also estimated that at least 20 – 25 million Americans have varicose veins. (1) (Venous Disease Coalition at www.venousdiseasecoalition.org)
Knowledge is power and will help you be a part of the solution in prevention and treatment. Recognizing the symptoms and early intervention is the key for maintaining a healthy leg lifestyle.
WHAT ARE HEALTHY VS. DISEASED VEINS?
Veins are blood vessels that return deoxygenated blood from the outer parts of the body to the heart and lungs. Vein disease, or venous reflux disease, occurs when the valves in the veins become weak or damaged. In a healthy leg vein, blood flows up the leg toward the heart. The valves in the vein control the blood flow and pressure by opening and closing as the heart pumps blood through the body. The one way valves prevent blood from flowing backwards in the veins and pooling in the legs. If the valves within the veins fail to work properly, the pooled blood can increase pressure in the veins. This can cause mild problems such as leg heaviness, aching, dilated veins or unsightly veins. It can also be more severe causing swelling, skin discoloration, rashes on legs, recurrent skin infections and ulcers, and deep vein thrombosis.
WHAT ARE CAUSES OF VALVE AND VEIN DYSFUNCTION?
There are several conditions that can cause the valves and veins to work improperly. Any problem that increases pressure can stretch the veins and damage the valves. This can lead to even higher pressure and worsened vein function. When the valve becomes weak or damaged, it loses the ability to control the blood flow. The valve “leaks” and blood flows back down the leg. The blood pools in the leg causing an increase in pressure in the veins, which results in the symptoms of vein disease. These symptoms include varicose veins, spider veins, pain, aching, throbbing, burning, numbness, cramping and heavy feeling legs or ankles. Contributing factors to valve and vein dysfunction include:
- A CLOT in the vein will block blood flow back through the vein, increasing This often permanently damages the valves in the vein even after the clot has dissolved.
- Leg INJURY or TRAUMA can damage the veins or
- PREGNANCY increases pressure in the veins due to increased blood volume for the fetus. In addition, hormonal changes affect the elasticity of the vein wall allowing the vein to
- OBESITY increases the pressure in the vein Increased adipose tissue impedes muscle ability to compress vein wall.
- CALF MUSCLE PUMP not effectively moving circulation of blood upwards toward Standing or sitting for prolonged periods of time can decrease the movement of blood out of the legs and lead to increased pressures in veins and pooling of blood. Many occupations contribute to increased venous pressure due to prolonged standing or sitting.
- HEREDITY – predisposed to weakened vein
WHAT ARE VASCULAR DISORDERS?
Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)
Chronic venous insufficiency is a common cause of leg pain and swelling. CVI results when valves of the veins do not function properly, and the circulation of blood in the leg veins is impaired. This can lead to swelling, discomfort, varicose veins, skin hyperpigmentation and leg ulceration. The seriousness of CVI increases as the disease progresses. Early diagnosis is extremely important to better your chances of preventing serious complications.
Varicose veins are rope-like blue vessels under the skin that can range from mild to severe. They are most often enlarged due to the excess pressure in the saphenous system. Varicose veins are unsightly and often painful. A clotted varicose vein causes a condition called phlebitis, in which skin overlying the site of the clot becomes hot, red and painful.
Besides the visible symptoms, physical symptoms include tiredness, restless legs at night, heaviness in the leg, pain, and aching, itching, throbbing and swelling, burning or cramping sensation.
Edema or Swelling
Swelling of the leg is a further sign that damaged or diseased vein valves are not functioning properly. Since the blood cannot be effectively returned to the heart, it pools in the leg resulting in venous hypertension (high blood pressure in the legs). This increased pressure causes swelling in the ankles or lower legs. Mild edema may only be found at the end of the day or it may be present all the time. The area around the ankle bones is often the first place that swelling is noticed.
Pooling of blood and increased pressure in the veins can cause the skin to become red, and over several years, the skin may become tan or a reddish-brown color. The skin changes are initially noticeable around the ankle, but frequently occur over the shins and on the foot.
The skin can also develop a type of inflammation that can cause itching, dryness, oozing fluid, scaling, open sores from scratching, and crusting or scabbing. Some people develop an area of intensely painful skin that turns red or brown, hard, and scar-like. This can occur suddenly or may develop after many years.
Skin ulcers caused by chronic venous insufficiency are called venous ulcers. These are usually located low on the inner ankle. Venous ulcers can occur higher on the leg after an injury, but rarely higher than the knee. More than one ulcer may occur at a time. Venous ulcers are usually tender to touch, shallow, have a red appearance at the bottom, and occasionally ooze. Venous ulcers have an extremely high recurrence rate and can take several months or years to heal.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
A DVT is a blood clot that usually forms in the deep veins of the lower leg. Deep vein thrombosis can cause leg pain, but often occurs without any symptoms. A DVT can develop while sitting still for long periods of time, such as when traveling by plane, train or automobile. There are also certain medical conditions that affect how your
blood clots. DVT is a serious condition because a clot can break loose and travel through your bloodstream and lodge in your lungs. This blocking of blood flow in your lungs is called a pulmonary embolism.
HOW DO I MANAGE VENOUS DISORDERS?
Prevention plays an important role in reducing your risk for developing venous disease. Like any disease, venous disorders are most treatable in its earliest stages. Some basic leg health strategies include:
- Avoid long periods of standing or sitting: If you must take a long trip or will be sitting for a long period of time, flex and extend your legs, feet and ankles to increase blood If standing for long periods of time, take frequent breaks to sit down and elevate your legs and feet.
- Exercise Regularly: Walking, swimming or other aerobic activity can improve your circulation by stimulating the vein
- Lose weight if you are
- Wear medical grade compression
- Take antibiotics as needed to treat skin
- Practice good skin
HELPFUL HEALTHY LEG TIPS:
- Wear your compression hosiery every day for optimal leg
- Put on your socks or stockings when you wake to prevent swelling from
- Movement promotes good
- Keep skin in good condition – dry between toes and use non-oily
- Stretch legs, move feet and contract calf muscle periodically when traveling for extended periods of
- Stay hydrated – drink plenty of
Avoid crossing your legs while you sit. This allows blood to flow to and from your legs.
THE IMPACT TRAVELING CAN HAVE ON YOUR BODY:
TRAVELING CAN CAUSE CIRCULATION ISSUES
Each year the average person is traveling more and more whether its visiting family stretched across the country or for business now stretched across the world. People are traveling long distances either by plane, car, train or bus and are experiencing travel-related leg discomfort. Candidly, they are experiencing pain and aren’t sure why. What they do not realize is that prolonged sitting during travel is causing circulation issues. The lack of movement or constrained movement reduces blood circulation causing symptoms such as heavy, fatigued, tired legs, leg pain, or swollen feet and ankles. Prolonged sitting and a lack of movement is a risk factor for a more serious condition called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). In some cases, blood clots can move through our system to the lungs, resulting in a pulmonary embolism (PE).
ECONOMY CLASS SYNDROME
What is “economy class syndrome”? It’s simply the symptoms, heavy, fatigued, tired legs, leg pain, or swollen feet and ankles caused by extended periods of inactivity due to a long plane flight or car ride. The blood flow becomes restricted which causes the leg fatigue and discomfort and may contribute to the serious problem of DVT. Activity of our calf muscles are crucial to contract veins and move blood from the legs back to the heart. If the blood flow is restricted due to the lack of activity blood can pool in the veins of the leg and form a deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in a deep vein).
The issue with blood clots is we may not even know it’s happening to us. You could be on a long flight or car ride and feel absolutely nothing. The problem arises when we go from the inactivity to normal activity such as walking. That’s when the blood clot can dislodge and move to the lungs where it can cause a pulmonary embolism, a dangerous and deadly condition.
Many people think these conditions can only happen to the people with higher risk factors: obesity, pregnancy, chronic heart disease, use of hormone medications, varicose veins and recent trauma/surgery. Unfortunately a DVT can happen to anyone, even a man or woman who are in perfect good health, while traveling economy class environment.
Compression Socks and Stockings have become recognized as the key answer to preventing aching, fatigued, and swollen legs and to lower the risk of DVT. Physicians worldwide strongly recommend Compression Stockings. In fact the 2008 US Surgeon General’s Call to Action specifically recommended Compression Therapy Products in the prevention of DVT’s and Pulmonary Embolism’s.
Compression Socks and Stockings provide the necessary graduated compression to maintain effective circulation, especially in prolong sitting environments such as long distance travel.
- Wear compression socks and stockings. Wearing graduated compression stockings can help prevent veins from expanding when in a confined space for long periods of time. Compression socks and stockings are clinically proven to be effective in reducing the number of vein clots in airline passengers.
- Keep moving your feet. Foot exercise make the calf muscles work and assist to pump blood back up to the heart.
- Avoid long periods of inactivity. As often as possible, exercise your legs. Simply, get up and move when possible on a plane. If you are traveling long distance by car, make frequent stops to walk and stretch legs.
- Drink plenty of fluids. It’s very important to stay hydrated while traveling. Avoid excessive amounts of alcohol.
- Avoid crossing your legs. Keep your legs uncrossed while you sit. This allows blood to flow to and from your legs.
Consult your physician. Ask your physician for information regarding the prevention of DVT’s and other venous problems.
THE NOT SO SECRET REASON WHY COMPRESSION WORKS
Compression therapy applies external pressure to the outside of the leg to reduce pressure within the leg. Wearing graduated socks and stockings will support your veins and increase your circulation thus reducing swelling, feeling of tired/fatigued, achy legs. The most effective approach is to start your day wearing your compression socks or stockings and remove them before going to bed.
Compression is our tool to fight gravity in our legs. The heart pumps blood against gravity up the veins of the legs. As we walk the contraction and relaxation of our calf muscles around the veins are necessary to assist in moving blood toward the heart.
Some of us have issues with weakness of our vein walls which can cause issues with our valves inside the vein walls. These weaknesses can create circulation problems and wearing compression socks and stockings is crucial for the prevention and treatment of lower leg pain, swelling/edema, and varicose veins and other circulatory problems.