Leg cramps are one of the many symptoms of vein disease. They are particularly common and can affect people of any age. A few reasons cramps happen include low potassium, decreased electrolytes, and varicose veins.
Varicose veins are close to the skin’s surface. They have a bumpy, knotted appearance and often cause discomfort such as aching legs and a feeling of heaviness. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, muscle cramps in the calves are more frequent in patients with vein disease than in the general population.
Vein disease can affect people of any age but is most commonly observed in people over the age of 50…
Why Do Varicose Veins Cause Leg Cramps?
When someone has vein disease or Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI), the one way valves in their leg veins are weakened or damaged, and blood is prevented from flowing to the heart efficiently. When these valves aren’t working properly, it causes blood to pool or flow backward, leading to enlarged, twisted veins known as varicose veins. The enlarged veins then put pressure on the surrounding muscles and nerves, causing leg cramps. This pressure can cause spasming, swelling, and pain.
What Are the Symptoms of Vein Disease and Leg Cramps?
Those who have an underlying vein disease may not know there is a problem until they develop cosmetic issues. When spider veins, or swollen, knotted varicose veins appear, it prompts them to seek treatment to improve the appearance of their legs.
Vein disease can affect people of any age but is most commonly observed in people over the age of 50, and women are twice as likely as men to have venous problems. Typical symptoms of vein disease are:
- Itching, burning, or leg cramps in the affected leg(s).
- Spider veins. Although harmless, spider veins can be one of the earliest signs of an underlying vein disease. Smaller and less serious than varicose veins, these blue or red veins aren’t painful but can cause feelings of self-consciousness. They look like spider webs, and clusters of them are most often found on the legs, but do appear on the face or other parts of your body occasionally.
- Varicose veins. These are different than spider veins. They are large, close to the skin’s surface, knotted, or twisted, and can cause significant discomfort.
- Edema (swelling) of the leg or legs.
- Heavy, aching, or legs that feel “tired.”
- Blood clots. In moderate to severe cases of vein disease, a person may have blood clots and/or Deep Vein Thrombosis. They may also have ulcers that are slow to heal and very painful.
- Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). Links between the incidence of RLS and varicose veins have been reported, according to the National Library of Medicine. The study discovered that when they treated patients presenting with RLS and the underlying vein disease, the symptoms of RLS decreased by 63%.
What Can I Do to Eliminate and Reduce Discomfort?
Fortunately, there are ways to ease the discomfort associated with varicose veins and leg cramps.
- Elevate Your Legs. One way to relieve painful cramps due to varicose veins is by elevating your legs above your heart for at least 15 minutes. This encourages proper blood flow and can help prevent excess blood from pooling in your legs and reduce swelling and pain.
- Invest in Compression Stockings. Compression stockings promote good circulation in your legs, as long as they are properly fitted. They come in a variety of styles, sizes, colors, and levels of compression depending on the severity of your varicose veins. They are most often the first line of defense in the treatment of painful veins.
- Stretch Out the Calf Muscles. Leg cramps are most common in the calves. To prevent cramps, slowly lean forward until you feel a tight, pulling sensation in your calves and hold it. Not only can this eliminate a cramp that is already occurring, but can prevent others as well.
Sitting or standing for long periods puts pressure on your legs, muscles, joints, and veins and can contribute to developing leg cramps and vein pain.
- Exercise Regularly. Exercise promotes a healthy weight, and strengthens your body—legs included. Getting active aids in circulation and can work to prevent future varicose veins from forming. Walking, jogging, biking, and dancing are some great ways to get active that are beneficial to your entire body and place emphasis on the legs.
- Stay Hydrated. In addition to CVI, many leg cramps are also caused by dehydration or an imbalance of electrolytes and minerals lost through sweating, prolonged time engaging in sports, or working out. Aim for 8-10 cups of water daily, and adjust as necessary based on your activity levels. If you have trouble drinking enough water, consider eating hydrating fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon (a great source of vitamin B6 and other key nutrients), pineapple, cucumber, and tomatoes.
- Avoid Prolonged Sitting or Standing. Sitting or standing for long periods puts pressure on your legs, muscles, joints, and veins and can contribute to developing leg cramps and vein pain. If possible, take regular breaks from sitting or standing to stretch and walk around for at least 5-10 minutes to reduce discomfort.
- Apply a Heating Pad or Take a Warm Bath. Both of these may alleviate some of the pain related to varicose veins and leg cramps. Taking a warm bath with Epsom salts can help your body get extra magnesium which works to prevent leg cramps associated with low magnesium levels and painful veins. If using a heating pad, be sure it is not too hot and only apply it in intervals of 10-15 minutes to prevent complications and burns.
Ready to Love Your Legs Again?
Marcus A. Jimenez, MD, FAC, is a leading Board-Certified Cardiovascular surgeon with more than a decade of experience in treating vein conditions. With his ongoing commitment to surgical innovations and professional artistry, Dr. Jimenez leads the way in diagnosing and treating venous diseases and improving vein functionality and appearance.
There is no one else in the Midwest with the equivalent skill, training, and expertise.
Contact Indiana Vein & Laser Center today and love your legs again when you schedule a consultation with Dr. Jimenez!
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