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Are Varicose Veins the Cause of Nerve Pain?

The nervous system controls the movement of muscles and senses throughout your body. Nerves are long, thin structures that carry electrical impulses to and from the brain and spinal cord. The body contains millions of nerves, including sensory nerves that transmit information about temperature, touch, and pain; motor nerves that control muscle contraction; and autonomic nerves that control body functions such as digestion and blood pressure.

Nerves can be damaged in many ways, including injury or disease. Nerve damage caused by varicose veins is known as neuropathy. Neuropathy is a broad term that includes different types of nerve problems and neuropathic pains. These types of pain include:

Peripheral Neuropathy

This type of nerve problem occurs in the peripheral nervous system, which consists of all the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. Peripheral neuropathy can cause numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hands and feet — especially at night. It may also cause chronic pain from leg pain when walking upstairs or standing for long periods.

Autonomic Neuropathy

Autonomic nerves control automatic body functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion — so autonomic neuropathy can cause health condition problems with blood pressure control and digestion and abnormal sweating and bowel movements (diarrhea).

Central (brain) Neuropathy

This type of nerve problem occurs closer to your brain than peripheral neuropathy does — in fact, it affects some parts of your brain itself.

What Is Nerve Pain

Nerve pain is a type of pain caused by injury to a nerve. Nerves are long, thin structures that carry electrical impulses to and from the brain and spinal cord. Nerve damage can be caused by injury or disease. Nerve injuries include sprains or strains, which occur when a muscle or tendon is stretched or torn, causing the nerve to stretch or tear (e.g., when you twist your ankle).

The most common causes of nerve pain include:

Injury to the nerves can happen during surgery, if you fall and hit your head, or if you have an accident. Autoimmune disorders or infections can cause this.

Nerve compression — If a nerve is compressed for any reason, it can cause severe pain or sharp pain. This might happen if you have a herniated disc in your back or neck, for example, or too much pressure on one side of your spine.

Vascular problems — Nerve damage can occur when blood vessels become inflamed and narrow down, which means less blood flow. This may happen because of high blood pressure or diabetes mellitus (diabetes).

Signs and symptoms of people with nerve pain include:

  • Abnormal sensations of pain, tingling, or numbness in the extremities (hands and feet) – this may be worse at night
  • Weakness or paralysis of the affected area
  • Burning, prickling sensations, or phantom pain
  • Foot drop, which means you can’t raise your foot straight up when you stand on tip-toe (also called foot drop)
  • Muscle twitching

What Are Varicose Veins?

These are twisted and swollen veins that appear as enlarged, blue lines. They often occur in the legs but can also affect the arms and other areas. Varicose veins develop when valves in your leg (or affected areas) veins cannot keep blood from pooling in your legs. The valves may not work properly due to aging, hormonal changes during pregnancy, or increased pressure in your legs from standing or sitting for long periods.

Nerve pain is a common symptom of varicose veins. It is caused by compression and irritation of the nerves in your lower leg. These nerves carry signals from your legs to your brain and vice versa. There are many nerves in your leg and foot, but the ones most often affected by varicose veins are:

The peripheral nerve carries signals from your skin and muscles to the spinal cord and brain.

The sciatic nerve runs through the back of your thigh, through the buttock, and into the foot.

The tibial nerve runs along the shin bone on the inside of your ankle.

What Kind of Pain Do Varicose Veins Cause?

Varicose veins usually don’t bother people unless they become very painful or cause swelling that interferes with everyday activities like walking or exercising. You may experience stabbing pains in your legs when you stand up after lying down for a while, stand for long periods or walk uphill. Varicose veins can also cause bleeding under the skin surface called hematomas.

Varicose veins usually don’t cause symptoms unless they become enlarged or twisted. Severe varicose veins may be associated with:

  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Itchy skin
  • Skin discoloration or bruising
  • Leg pain, burning or tingling sensations

Suppose you have varicose veins and experience nerve pain. In that case, it’s important to have a specialist doctor check for other possible causes of pain, such as nerve damage due to diabetes or peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

Dr. Albert Malvehy

Dr. Albert Malvehy

M. Albert Malvehy, MD, RVT, dABVLM is a top-rated East Bay vein doctor serving the East Bay and greater San Francisco, California area. One of the few physicians in the country who devotes his practice exclusively to vein disease, Dr. Malvehy performs over 500 major varicose vein treatments using laser vein treatment and 1,000 spider vein treatments with sclerotherapy every year.

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