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Leg Cramps, a Sign of Vein Disease?


Do you have leg cramps, especially at night?  Have you awoken from sleep with a painful leg cramp?  Most of us, at one time,  have gotten out of bed to stretch in order to relieve a leg muscle cramp.  There are a number of medical reasons for leg cramps and these include fatigue, dehydration, electrolyte (especially potassium) imbalance, medications, but also arterial or venous circulation problems.

Muscles naturally contract and relax as we use them during our normal daily activities.  When a muscle contracts and then fails to relax, the outcome may be a painful muscle cramp.  These are commonly noted in the lower extremities.  Everyone has occasional night cramps which are not usually associated with a serious underlying condition.  If you are having more frequent and severe muscle cramps, these symptoms should be evaluated by a physician.

Leg cramping with exercise may actually to be associated with more serious conditions.  If you have muscle cramping while walking short distances, but recover with rest, this may indicate arterial disease.  Testing is available to detect  arterial disease and today minimally invasive testing may easily detect extremity artery blockage.  Exercise, smoking cessation and arterial reconstruction may be necessary to treat a condition called arterial claudication.

Night leg cramps are one of the common symptoms of vein disease.   Cramping caused by venous disease may have more than one causative factor.  Understanding the venous circulation and the changes which occur with vein disease helps us to understand this problem.

Healthy veins draw the ‘used’  blood from the cells where oxygen and nutrients have been extracted and carbon dioxide and waste products are released.  The venous blood, which is low in oxygen and high in waste products,  is then returned to the heart and lungs.  Here the blood is replenished with oxygen and nutrients.

Healthy circulation relies on walking with pressure of the foot on the floor (foot pump) and contraction of the calf muscle (calf pump) to pump the blood up the veins.  As the blood is propelled up the veins, one way check valves open and close directing blood up the leg veins and preventing it from flowing backward.  If these valves are damaged, venous blood will flow in a backward or reverse direction.  This pooling of venous blood, with the blood waste products, is the source of the symptoms causing leg cramping in venous disease.

Many patients suffer from venous reflux or venous disease and leg cramps without noticeable signs of varicose veins or spider veins.  The symptoms of venous disease range from very obvious bulging veins, ankle swelling, skin changes, blood clots, bleeding veins and spider veins to only subtle  symptoms of mild cramping or itching.

Important to remember  is this,  those night cramps you experience may indicate undiagnosed vein disease or venous reflux.  The diagnosis is made by a Physician Vein Specialist (or Phlebologist) who is dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of vein diseases.  A simple and non-invasive duplex ultrasound, performed by an experienced, ultrasound-qualified professional and specialist can detect venous reflux.

The treatment of vein disease may be managed with exercise, leg elevation, healthy weight management, and wearing medical grade compression stockings.  Though these measures may help with symptoms,  the chronic changes of vein disease are progressive.  To correct the underlying venous reflux problem and to treat varicose veins and spider veins Minnesota Vein Center offers expert diagnosis and  advanced minimally invasive treatment modalities.  Contact mnveincenter   651-765-8346 to schedule your evaluation.

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