Leg pain is never fun ...

Your legs are easily in the top four most important limbs on your body, and having your mobility negatively impacted can be an incredibly frustrating experience. There's no one-size-fits-all cause for leg pain; different problems can manifest in significantly different ways. While some sources of leg pain can be super obvious, such as bear traps and ice-skating sabotages, keep an eye out for these potentially invisible sources of leg pain before you hit the hiking trails this summer.

Varicose Veins

Although varicose veins can affect the circulatory system anywhere in your body, the most commonly affected location is your legs. These veins are twisted and enlarged, which can give them a distinct, spiderweb look. They are most commonly caused by veins being unable to properly circulate blood, leading to blood pooling inside limbs.

According to MayoClinic, the most common symptoms of varicose veins are:

  • Veins that are dark purple or blue in color
  • Veins that appear twisted and bulging; they are often like cords on your legs
  • An achy or heavy feeling in your legs
  • Burning, throbbing, muscle cramping and swelling in your lower legs
  • Worsened pain after sitting or standing for a long time
  • Itching around one or more of your veins
  • Skin discoloration around a varicose vein

Most instances of varicose veins are a purely cosmetic concern, but it's still important to consult with your doctor if you think that you might be affected. Although complications are considered fairly rare, they can include ulcers, bleeding, and even blood clots. 

Thrombophlebitis

This intimidating word refers to an inflammatory reaction that causes blood to clot in veins. Like varicose veins, this can happen in any part of your body, but legs are the most common place where symptoms occur. The most common cause of these clots is prolonged inactivity, although the risk can also be amplified by varicose veins, pregnancy, or certain hormonal medications. 

According to MayoClinic, the main symptoms to watch for are:

  • Warmth, tenderness, and pain in the affected area
  • Redness and swelling
  • Pain
  • Swelling

If you are experiencing red, swollen, or especially tender veins, it's important to seek medical help immediately. This is even more urgent if the swollen vein is painful to touch or you are experiencing shortness of breath or chest pain. These symptoms could indicate that blood clots are traveling to your lungs. 

Medical organizations like The American Vein Institute specialize in treating varicose veins. Even if the damage caused by these veins is purely cosmetic, it is important to have them examined.

Gout

Gout is a common and particularly nasty form of arthritis that can affect almost anybody. It is caused by urate crystals building up in your joints, which can eventually inflame and cause a gout attack. These urate crystals are caused by urate acid building up faster than your body can break it down. If left unchecked for long enough, buildups of excess uric acid can form needle-like crystals that pierce joints and their surrounding tissues. 

According to MayoClinic, these are the symptoms to watch out for:

  • Intense joint pain. Gout usually affects the large joint of your big toe, but it can occur in any joint. Other commonly affected joints include the ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, and fingers. The pain is likely to be most severe within the first four to 12 hours after it begins.
  • Lingering discomfort. After the most severe pain subsides, some joint discomfort may last from a few days to a few weeks. Later attacks are likely to last longer and affect more joints.
  • Inflammation and redness. The affected joint or joints become swollen, tender, warm, and red.
  • Limited range of motion. As gout progresses, you may not be able to move your joints normally.

If you're experiencing sudden and intense joint pain, call your doctor. It is important to treat Gout early to mitigate the risks of further complications down the road. If you have a fever or your joint is hot and inflamed, seek medical care immediately. This could be a sign that your joint is infected. 

Not all leg pain is created equal, and listening to your body is an important habit in staying healthy. If you're experiencing leg pain, it's better to be proactive and address it early rather than waiting for it to potentially develop into something serious.