Vein conditions that cause leg pain can require medical intervention at a vein clinic specializing in minimally invasive procedures to repair and optimize the function of the veins in the leg. The leg pain can be constant or intermittent, and it can develop suddenly or gradually. The pain can range from a mild annoyance to debilitating, affecting the ability to walk and perform simple everyday activities.
Although early symptoms might be minor and the pain managed effectively with home treatment, the condition can become more serious and even life-threatening if not treated by a vein specialist. Furthermore, persistent pain can indicate a more serious condition, which is why it is important to be aware of symptoms and seek medical attention at the earliest sign of a problem.
Vascular Conditions That Produce Leg Pain
Any condition affecting the vascular system (arteries and veins) is considered a vascular disease. The condition can lead to body tissues not getting enough blood (ischemia) and even life-threatening problems.
Veins are flexible, hollow tubes with interior flaps (valves) that open when the muscles contract, moving blood through the veins back to the heart. When the muscles relax, the valves close, keeping blood from flowing away from the heart.
If the valves become damaged, they may not close completely, allowing blood to flow “backward” (retrograde), resulting in the pooling of blood and swelling in the veins that cause pressure to buildup in the vein. The pressure causes stretching of the veins, increased swelling, more valve incompetence, sluggish blood flow, and the potential for a blood clot to form. If left untreated, this condition can lead to various inflammatory disorders collectively known as venous disease that can lead to leg (or arm) pain.
The inflammatory process that causes a blood clot to form and block one or more veins is called thrombophlebitis, which most often occurs in the legs. It is possible for a blood clot to cause deep-vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, heart attack, or stroke. Thrombophlebitis can be the result of trauma, surgery, or prolonged inactivity.
Causes and Symptoms of Vein Conditions That Produce Leg Pain
There are different types of vascular disease that can result in orthopedic leg pain. The signs and symptoms vary depending on the underlying cause. The most common symptoms are pain, swelling, and tenderness.
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD): a buildup of plaque in the arteries supplying blood to the arms and legs, causing the arteries to narrow, or even become blocked. The symptoms include leg weakness and numbness, hair loss on the legs and feet, and muscle pain when walking or climbing stairs (claudication).
- Varicose Veins: enlarged, swollen, knotted clusters of purple veins; edema (swelling in the legs); aching or a sensation of heaviness in the legs; itching skin above the affected veins. In advanced cases, the skin becomes discolored and ulcers form on the ankles.
- Superficial thrombophlebitis: a red, engorged, cordlike vein, associated with localized swelling, pain, or tenderness.
- Deep-vein thrombophlebitis: generalized swelling, warmth, and redness in the affected limb; enlargement of superficial veins; bluish skin color in the limb or toes (cyanosis); and rarely, fever and chills.
- Post-thrombotic syndrome can occur after a deep-vein thrombosis. The affected leg or arm can become chronically swollen and painful with skin color changes and ulcer formation around the foot and ankle.
Patients may have several symptoms or no symptoms at all. In some cases, the symptoms may mimic a bacterial infection of the skin and tissues beneath the skin (cellulitis).
Treating Vein Conditions That Produce Leg Pain
Physicians treat thrombophlebitis in various ways. Treatment options include:
- If superficial thrombophlebitis is the diagnosis, doctors recommend the patient be up and active. The patient should also be checked frequently to make sure the blood clot does not progress. Doctors also recommend:
- Warm compresses.
- Leg compression.
- Anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen or naproxen).
- Some patients with deep-vein thrombophlebitis may require hospitalization, though many are seen on an outpatient basis. Bed rest and elevation of the affected limb are essential. Doctors usually prescribe intravenous anti-clotting medication (such as heparin) for seven to ten days. Outpatients are given anti-clotting oral medications.
- Clot-dissolving agents or anticoagulants (sometimes called “blood thinners”) can help resolve the condition. An anticoagulant treats, prevents, and reduces the risk of blood clots breaking off and traveling to vital organs of the body. (It is important to note that the term “blood thinner” is not strictly correct. The medication does not actually thin the blood. Instead, it acts as an anticoagulant that prevents or reduces coagulation of blood and prolonging the clotting time.)
- Special elastic support stockings (compression therapy) may help aid circulation in the lower limbs.
- Stents (a tubular support placed inside a blood vessel to aid healing or relieve an obstruction) may also be required to keep a vein open and prevent clotting.
- An IVC filter (inferior vena cava filter) is placed in the major vein that collects blood from both legs to prevent blood clots from reaching the heart and lungs. These filters may be effective but have the potential risk of being the source of a new clot formation.
- Surgery is a rare option in treating large deep venous thrombosis of the leg in patients who cannot take blood thinners or who have developed recurrent blood clots while on anticoagulant medications. The surgical procedure usually includes placing an IVC filter through a small incision in a vein to prevent future clots from traveling to the lungs.
Patients taking anticoagulation medications have an increased risk of bleeding. In deciding to use these medicines, the doctor must balance the risk and rewards of the treatment.
Prevention of Vein Conditions That Produce Leg Pain
There are precautions you can take that can help prevent blood clots and vein disease. To reduce the risk factors for developing blood clots, doctors recommend:
- Avoid or quit smoking (especially if also taking birth control pills or hormone therapy).
- When traveling on a long trip, get up and walk every couple of hours.
- Engage in moderate exercise, as recommended by a doctor.
- Manage healthy blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and lipids.
- Keep blood pressure under control.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- If you are being treated for a cardiovascular or other condition, follow the doctor’s orders carefully.
Certain conditions can place a person at a higher risk of leg pain due to vein conditions include:
- Being immobile, including prolonged bed rest due to illness or injury.
- Taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.
- Surgery that damages the veins in an arm or leg.
- Having a family history or genetic predisposition to forming blood clots.
Orthopedic leg pain has many different causes, and the symptoms often overlap. If symptoms persist, seeking medical treatment.
Novus Spine & Pain Center
Dr. Torres established Novus Spine & Pain Center in Lakeland, Florida with the goal of providing the highest quality pain management care to every patient. Whether leg pain is the result of a vein condition, injury, or from another condition, Dr. Torres offers many different treatment options.
Novus Spine & Pain Center utilizes a comprehensive approach and cutting-edge therapies to restore normal function and allow patients to regain an active lifestyle while minimizing the need for opiates. As our patient, you are our top priority. Our goal is to help you achieve the best possible quality of life.
Our Mission Statement: To provide the best quality of life to people suffering from pain, by providing state of the art treatments, knowledge and skill, compassion, and respect for all.
Orthopedic Leg Pain Resources
Leg Pain (Mayo Clinic)
Leg Pain: Types, causes, and home treatment (Medical News Today)
Venous Disease (Johns Hopkins)
Thrombophlebitis (Mayo Clinic)
DVT (Blood Clot in the Legs) Symptoms, Signs, and Treatment Guidelines (MedicineNet.com)
What is Vascular Disease? (WebMD)
Types of Vascular Disease (Cleveland Clinic)
Vascular disease (Wikipedia)
What is anti-clotting medication and how is it used safely? (PubMed)
List of Anticoagulant Drugs (Blood Thinners) (MedicineNet)
What are the Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease? (Medical News Today)