If you have been told by your doctor that you are trim and healthy you don’t really need to read this.
However, if you are curious and proactive when it comes to your health or if you are 50+ and have noticed some swelling and heaviness feelings in your legs and feet you may want to read on.
Like many other things that can have a tendency to sneak up on you as we advance in age, you may notice symptoms like the following:
- Heaviness, aching or tired feeling legs
- Visible varicose veins
- Swollen feet and ankles throughout the day or after standing for long periods
- Brownish skin discolorations in the ankle area or leathery looking skin on the legs
- Marks and indentations where the socks end
Like it or not the above described signs could be precursors of a chronic condition known as venous insufficiency (CVI). It is important to know that classic telltale signs are swelling and a tired feeling in the feet. This illness develops when the valves inside the veins become damaged or defective, causing the blood flow to slow and allowing the blood to flow backwards and pool in the leg veins.
If left untreated, the pressure and swelling will eventually increase to a point where the smallest blood vessels in the legs will burst. Blood and fluid then can become trapped in the surrounding tissue causing inflammation and damage to the tissue. This can manifest itself in the form of sores on the skin or even ulcers as a worst case scenario.
According to the Cleveland Clinic you are also more likely to get chronic venous insufficiency if you have any of the following risk factors:
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Varicose veins or a family history of varicose veins
- Expectant mothers
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Long periods of standing or sitting
- You are a female
- You are over age 50
It may surprise you to know that nearly half of the population in the United States is affected by chronic venous insufficiency. The ratios are even higher when it comes to women versus men or people over 50 years old.
In dealing with swollen feet, your first course of action should be a consultation with your physician. He will verify with a thorough examination and testing that all your organs (e.g. heart, lungs, liver, thyroid and kidneys) are functioning properly. He will also determine whether any medications you are taking could be a contributor to the swelling of your feet.
What can be Done if your Swollen Legs are Caused by Chronic Venous Insufficiency?
As with most diseases, chronic venous insufficiency is best treatable in its initial stages. If you have any of the earlier described symptoms or if CVI runs in your family your healthcare provider may recommend for you to follow these guidelines:
- Eat a healthy diet and lose weight.
- Don’t smoke.
- Exercise regularly (walk 3-4 hours a week).
- Avoid prolonged standing or sitting.
- Walk around for five minutes every hour when at your job, traveling on a plane or during a car, bus or train trip.
- Elevate your legs for 10 minutes every four hours.
- Use good skin creams. As the swelling becomes chronic, skin has a tendency to break down.
- Wear graduated compression hose at the highest strength you can handle.
The Consequences of Un-Treated Venous Disease
The most conservative treatment option is to wear properly fitted support stockings or pantyhose, also known as graduated compression stockings.
Modern compression stockings are no longer the ugly beige rubber stockings our grandmothers used to wear.
Quite the contrary, today’s compression stockings, pantyhose, tights or compression leggings are available in lighter and sheerer styles. Color and design choices rival many types of fashion hosiery making them virtually indistinguishable as compression stockings.
Compression stockings must be gradient or graduated in their compression because the pressure at the ankle has to be the highest and decrease “gradually” going up the leg. This is to achieve the desired effect of propelling the blood up through the veins toward the heart and lungs.
Compression stockings come in different compression levels ranging from 8-10 mmHg up to 40-50 mmHg. The lighter the compression of the stockings or pantyhose the easier they are to put on and take off. So-called “travel socks” or “flight socks” that help prevent blood clots while flying or driving long distances are usually 8-12 mmHg or 15-20 mmHg. These can be purchased without a prescription. Stronger ones above 20 mmHg usually require a prescription.
It is also very important to ensure that compression stockings fit properly to achieve the desired results. Poorly fitting compression stockings can actually make your condition worse by blocking efficient blood circulation to the area being treated.
For additional information about the importance of proper sizing and fitting of compression stockings please also read our article …
Problems Associated with Graduated Compression Stockings – The Importance of Correct Measurements and Sizing
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