Our note: This is the first of a two-part series on leg health, venous disorders, and what you can do to keep your legs healthy. As we age, it is critical to keep our legs healthy so we can maintain mobility well into the later years. Not caring for the health of your legs can not only bring on mobility issues, it can be deadly as well.
Written by: Dr. Stephanie Wu of the Rosalind Franklin School of Medicine, William Scholl College of Podiatry in Chicago
One in five women and one in six men suffer from the effects of a venous disorder and, according to the American College of Phlebology, more than 80 million Americans have a venous disorder. Venous circulation problems can progressively worsen over time and can affect your health and quality of life.
To find out if you are at risk for a venous disorder, please refer to the chart below.
Do any of the above risk factors apply to you, or do you experience any of the symptoms listed above? This brochure will help educate you about leg health and how to keep your legs healthy.
Leg Problems & Lost Work Days
Do you ever experience aching or pain in your legs? Those of us who work in jobs requiring many hours of standing or sitting know firsthand how tired our legs can become after a long day on the job. Leg problems cause more than 2 million lost workdays each year. However, according to The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, medical compression socks have been proven more effective at reducing aches and pains in the legs than industrial rubber floor mats. Furthermore, wearing graduated compression socks and hosiery can help prevent a venous disorder later in life.
Many people are unaware that a simple change of socks or hosiery can improve their circulation, help prevent the onset of varicose veins, and revive tired, achy legs. It’s not just people who stand for a living who experience pain and discomfort. In fact, nearly everyone can benefit from wearing SIGVARIS graduated compression, including business travelers, healthcare workers, physicians, retailers, factory workers, athletes, expecting moms and more.
The Circulatory System
The arterial system uses the power of the heart to drive oxygen- rich blood throughout the body. Veins deliver deoxygenated blood back the lungs and heart. The veins have oneway valves which aid the flow of blood upward against the pull of gravity. When the calf muscles contract, the valves open; when the calf muscles relax, the valves close to prevent blood from refluxing (reversing flow) into the lower part of the vein (see illustration below). These valves are fragile and can easily become damaged.
Reflux can cause pressure to build within the vein, which stretches the vein walls and weakens them. The valves may become incompetent, which leads to a progression of lower extremity disorders, including achy legs, heavy legs, varicose veins, skin changes and/or a venous leg ulcer.
- Valve Open: Blood flows toward the heart.
- Valve Closed: Prevents blood from reverse flow.
- When Valves Don’t Close: They become incompetent. Reverse bl-flow causes “pooling” and weakening of the vein wall
How Graduated Compression Works
Graduated compression garments work by acting as an external layer of muscle, gently squeezing the stretched vein walls together and allowing valves to function, thus restoring blood flow closer to a normal state. Having pressure greatest at the ankle, decreasing as it goes up the leg, helps fight the force of gravity and circulate blood back to the heart more effectively improving overall circulation.
To be most effective, the compression garment should be put on at the start of the day and removed before going to bed. Remember, venous circulation problems can progressively worsen over time and can affect a patient’s quality of life. Problems in the legs should be treated as early as possible to help reduce the rate of progression.
Stay tuned for Part Two next time…