Why do my legs feel heavy and tired?

Why do my legs feel heavy and tired?

Overview

Feeling heavy and tired legs after walking a lot or after a workout is expected and is normal. However, if your legs are feeling heavy, stuffed, tired, hard to lift, or drag for no apparent reason, it could be a sign of some issue related to your veins.

The feeling of heaviness and tired legs can be due to a variety of conditions.

So, firstly we need to identify the common signs & symptoms, and then secondly, we need to find the underlying causes.

Common signs & symptoms

People describe their heavy and tired legs along with the following symptoms:

  • Cramping
  • Aching
  • Burning sensation
  • Swollen
  • Hard to lift
  • Tired
  • Dullness
  • Numbness
  • Throbbing or stabbing pain
  • Tingling in the legs
  • Burning or cold sensations in the legs
  • May appear bumpy & Discoloration
  • Sores (slower to heal)
  • Discomfort in the legs
  • Fatigue in the legs(while walking or climbing stairs)
  • Difficulty in walking or standing

Possible causes

A wide range of conditions can cause heavy and tired legs. Here is the list of some of the possible and leading causes.

  • Varicose veins

Varicose veins are one of the most apparent reasons for heavy and tired legs. It mostly affects the legs and feet. When veins push blood back to the heart properly, they enlarge and cause swelling in the legs.

Signs and symptoms

  • Itchiness
  • Heaviness & tiredness in legs
  • Worsened pain after standing or sitting for too long
  • Muscle cramping
  • Swelling
  • Aching and cramping
  • Veins appear blue, red, or purple

 Risk factors

  • Family history
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Long-standing professions
  • Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI)

This medical condition occurs when the veins aren’t able to send back blood from your limbs to your heart. Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when the wall and valves of the leg veins don’t work effectively. This usually occurs in deep veins of the leg which are inside muscle compartments (remember, varicose veins are diseases of the superficial veins i.e. veins which are present just below the skin).

CVI causes blood to pool in the veins of the legs, and blood doesn’t flow back properly to the heart.

Signs and symptoms

  • Swelling & heaviness in the leg (especially in the lower leg and ankle)
  • Aching or tiredness in the leg
  • Flaking or itching in the legs
  • The skin may appear reddish-brown
  • Leg cramps
  • Weak legs
  • Pain that gets worse when you stand
  • Tightness in the calves
  • Leg ulcers

Risk factors

  • Obesity
  • Age over 50
  • Family history
  • Pregnant
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • Standing for an extended period
  • Sitting for too long.
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Heavy and tired legs especially severe pain in calf on walking a certain distance,  is an early sign of Peripheral Arterial Disease(PAD). PAD refers to the condition when the arteries carrying blood to the legs from the heart become narrowed, and it reduces the blood flow towards the limbs.

One of the most common causes of Peripheral Arterial Disease is Atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a disease which builds a fatty material inside the arteries. Another very common cause is smoking.

Signs and symptoms

  • Severe pain in calf muscles on walking a certain distance (eg 100 – 200 meters) – gets relieved on resting for 5 – 10 minutes. Every time, the pain happens after walking for the same distance. This distance reduces (without treatment) with time until the patient cannot walk to the washroom also and later, the patient starts having pain while sleeping also.

This is the major and most important symptom of peripheral arterial disease

  • Leg weakness
  • Heaviness
  • Tiredness
  • The leg may feel cold
  • Numbness
  • Brittle toenails
  • Unhealing sores or ulcers
  • Leg skin may turn pale or bluish.

Risk factors

  • Older Age
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • If you do smoking
  • Diabetic
  • Obesity
  • Family history
  • Radiculopathy

Radiculopathy refers to a narrowing of bony spaces from which, nerves arising from the spinal cord in the back pass through. This causes damage to the nerves arising from the cord and therefore, causes the patient to have symptoms of pain, tingling in the lower limbs.

Signs and symptoms

  • Pain in the legs/tingling; especially that radiates from lower back
  • Leg weakness and numbness
  • Weakness and numbness in the buttocks
  • Pain into thigh and leg
  • Back pain

Risk factors

  • Obesity
  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Muscle cramps

Tired legs can be a sign of muscle cramps. Muscle cramps can occur due to the overuse of legs. Especially in summers, due to dehydration, the salt imbalance can occur and cause muscle cramps.  Give your legs some time to rest until your symptoms subside. Rehydrate yourself with water or, better with lime water. If still the symptoms remain the same or get severe, then see your doctor.

Signs and symptoms

  • Sharp pain
  • Heaviness in the legs
  • May appear hard lump of muscle tissue
  • Tired legs

Risk factors

  • Age
  • Pregnancy
  • Medical conditions like thyroid disorder, diabetes, nerve disorder
  • Pregnancy

Heaviness in legs may be caused due to pregnancy because the growing fetus puts excessive pressure on the lower abdominal veins, and extreme force increases the blood pooling in the legs. Throughout pregnancy, you may experience cramping, tired and heavy legs or varicose veins.

Signs and symptoms

  • Heavy & tired legs
  • Pain or cramps in the legs
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Tiredness and heaviness in the legs are the most common symptoms reported by the people suffering from MS conditions.

Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic illness, and this condition involves your Central Nervous System (CNS) (brain and the spinal cord).

This condition affects the communication issues between the brain and the body.

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms may vary upon the amount of nerve damage

  • Numbness and weakness in limbs (it can be in one or more limbs)
  • Muscles fatigue
  • Lack of coordination
  • Vision problems are also common
  • Loss of balance
  • Difficulty in walking

Risk factors

  • Age
  • Family history 
  • Certain infections
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Smoking 
  • Obesity

Being overweight invites several health issues. Obesity may cause heavy legs due to the excess weight on the legs.

Obesity can put extra pressure on the joints, tendons, and muscles of the legs and, can also cause circulation problems, thus, worsening the feeling of heavy legs.

Signs and symptoms

  • Aching
  • Heaviness

Risk factors

  •  Lack of physical activity
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Genetic
  • Thyroid disorder
  • Spider veins

Spider veins are very much similar to varicose veins. Spider veins are the smaller version of varicose veins. Spider veins are a group of tiny vessels that usually develops in the legs. Veins will appear red or blue colored and close to the surface of the skin. They seem like a spider web.

Signs & symptoms

  • Swelling
  • Throbbing
  • Aching(especially in the evening)
  • Itching & tingling
  • Heaviness & fatigue in leg
  • Cramping
  • Twisted or bulging veins will appear
  • Skin rashes
  • Skin discoloration
  • Veins will appear red, dark blue or purple
  • Burning sensation
  • Throbbing or stabbing pain

Risk factors

  • Sitting or standing for prolonged periods
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Blood clots in the veins / DVT

Blood clots can cause heavy and fatigued legs. Blood clot refers to the clump of blood, which changes the liquid state of blood into a gel-like state and restricts the blood circulation process.Blood clots that occur in deep veins are called Deep Vein Thrombosis(DVT). It’s a severe medical condition and mostly occurs in legs.

Signs & symptoms

  • Swelling
  • Severe pain
  • Tenderness
  • Cramping
  • Burning or warm sensation
  • Heavy or fatigued legs
  • The skin around the affected area may appear pale or red, blue.

Risk factors

  • Injury or damage veins
  • Overweight
  • Family history
  • Undergoing hormone therapy
  • Smoking
  • Seated for too long

All the symptoms, as mentioned earlier, may vary according to the affected area and the seriousness of the condition.

When to seek help

Occasionally feeling heavy and tired legs are normal and expected. When these two symptoms don’t go away and worsen day by day and interfere in your daily routine and, if these symptoms occur along with other symptoms like pain, swelling, stiffness, numbness, or other signs, as mentioned above, then it’s time to seek help from doctors.

How to prevent it

Few precautions can be taken to prevent these conditions.

  • Maintain weight
  • Exercise daily
  • Stop smoking and drinking
  • Maintain blood pressure & cholesterol
  • Diabetic control
  • Avoid sitting or standing for prolonged periods. 

These are the few precautions that may reduce the risk of getting the conditions mentioned above.

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