And I thought I was just getting old…
It’s 3 o'clock in the afternoon and it feels like my body has just run out of steam. I need to sit down, rest and re-group. Just a little break, before I grind out the rest of my day. The weird thing is that today was just a normal kind of day. Nothing crazy. I hadn’t really done anything strenuous, and it's not like I've been overdoing it at the gym! But for some reason, my legs feel tired. I know I need to sit down and rest.
While sitting there the little voice inside my head starts peppering me about all the things I could be doing, and all the things I should be doing. I remember something I forgot to do earlier today… I’ll have to add that to my to-do list. Why am I sitting here? I’m not a procrastinator, let’s get on with things! But it feels so good to sit… let me check my emails, I’ll get going in 5 minutes.
For the last few months, I’d noticed that I had been taking little “rest breaks” throughout the day. At first, these breaks were just once or twice a week, but more recently I had started taking a little break on most days of the week. I know I’m not as young as I used to be, but I don’t see other people needing to sit as much as I do.
What’s going on with me? What should I do? What are my options?
For many people, the gradual onset of tired, aching legs can be the first sign of an extremely common vein problem. The most common symptoms of vein problems are early leg fatigue and leg heaviness. These symptoms tend to be worse at the end of the day, and commonly occur after prolonged standing. Interestingly, some people with vein problems will get symptoms that occur with prolonged sitting. Many people report that their symptoms are worse in the hot weather. Other common symptoms include leg cramps, leg restlessness, and ankle/lower leg swelling.
Every year millions of people in the United States are diagnosed with a vein condition called venous reflux. This condition occurs when the valves inside the leg veins have ceased to function correctly, which causes increased backpressure and can result in a variety of symptoms.
Vein problems can develop for a variety of reasons. Age-related deterioration in the strength of the vein wall is the most common mechanism, but many young people in their 20’s-40’s can also develop vein problems. Younger patients often have risk factors such as a family history of varicose veins, excess body weight, or jobs that involve prolonged standing. Many women develop vein problems during pregnancy.
If left untreated vein problems can eventually lead to skin discoloration, skin infection, and skin breakdown. These problems typically occur just above the ankle area in the “gaiter” area of the legs.
If you have unexplained weakness and leg fatigue it may not be simply “getting old”… you may have a common vein condition that can be easily treated. Testing for this condition involves assessing the veins using a painless ultrasound test, that takes about 20 minutes per leg.
The good news is that if you have a vein problem there are now excellent treatment options available. Dr. Peter Ford at Vascular Solutions (Vein & Vascular Center) is the region's foremost expert in the treatment of vein problems.