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Achy, Heavy Legs May Indicate Vein Problems

by Jane Meggitt

If you have varicose veins and your legs often feel achy and heavy, go to a doctor. You might suffer from the vein disorder known as chronic venous insufficiency or “leaky” veins. While varicose veins contribute to the problem, they are not the cause of it.

Chronic Venous Insufficiency Symptoms

Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when the vein wall or the leg vein valves do not work properly. Blood pools in the legs, rather than returning to the heart as part of the normal circulatory pattern. Symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency include:

  • New varicose veins
  • Leg aches and cramping
  • Swelling in the ankles and lower legs
  • Leather-like skin
  • Leg ulceration
  • Itchy, flaking skin.

If you’re over 50, relatively sedentary, tall, a smoker, overweight or pregnant, you’re at increased risk for chronic venous insufficiency. Many people have a family history of the condition. If you’ve ever had a deep vein thrombosis, the odds of your developing chronic venous insufficiency are quite high.


Your doctor diagnoses leaky veins via a physical exam and a vascular ultrasound. During this procedure, the physician can view your leg veins on a monitor.


Treatment for mild chronic venous insufficiency treatment starts with wearing compression stocking to decrease swelling and regular movement. Avoid wearing tight clothing. If your job requires you to sit for long periods, try to get up and take a short walk around the room or at least move and raise your legs frequently. If you’re overweight, your doctor may design a diet and exercise program for you.

If your condition is serious, there are various therapies available. These include:

  • Ablation – heat is used for vein destruction.
  • Angioplasty – a minute balloon is sent up the vein, widening it so blood can flow. A stent – a mesh strip – is installed so the vein stays open.
  • Bypass – this surgery reroutes the blood flow so it avoids the blocked vein.
  • Sclerotherapy – salt water is injected into the vein, eventually causing it to harden, then disappear
  • Vein stripping – this surgery removes the vein through small leg incisions.

Without treatment, capillaries in your leg may burst. This damages tissues internally, and externally produces leg ulceration. These ulcers often become affected, leading to cellulitis, a bacterial infection that can spread throughout your body. Having achy, crampy legs checked out as soon as possible is the best way to minimize complications.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about vein treatment, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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