More than 25% of adults in the United States have varicose veins. For some people, these veins are a cosmetic issue. For others, they are often associated with pain and discomfort. While highly unpleasant and hardly appealing, varicose veins are easy to treat.
What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are large, swollen veins that are usually located on calves and legs.
Veins have one-way valves that keep blood flowing to the heart. When these valves are weakened, the blood backs up and pools in your veins, increasing venous pressure and causing veins to swell, bulge, and twist. Veins, which are closer to the surface, have less muscle support than deeper veins do. That’s why they are more likely to become varicose.
In many cases, varicose veins don’t cause any symptoms. The main concern the majority of patients have is their poor aesthetic appearance. However, some people experience:
- Muscle cramping
- Worsening of pain after sitting or standing for a long time
- Itching around veins
- Skin and discoloration around veins
If symptoms hinder your quality of life, many different treatments are available. If not treated timely, varicose veins can cause such complications as:
- Bleeding — when varicose veins are too close to the skin surface, they can burst and result in bleeding.
- Ulcers — in rare cases, ulcers form on the skin near the bulging varicose veins. The warning sign of ulcer formation is skin discoloration around the vein.
While these complications are rare, it’s important to pay special attention to your condition to avoid them. If you notice any of the symptoms, see your doctor immediately.
What Do Varicose Veins Look Like?
Varicose veins look like reddish or bluish bulging cords in your legs. Some people mistake spider veins for varicose veins. However, unlike spider veins, which appear as thin lines, varicose veins bulge above the skin surface.
What Causes Varicose Veins
Varicose veins occur when valves in your veins are weakened or damaged. The risk factors for developing varicose veins include:
- Obesity — excess weight puts pressure on the veins, damaging the valves.
- Age — with age, the valves wear out and become more susceptible to damage
- Gender — women are more likely to suffer from this condition. Hormone changes during pregnancy and menopause cause vein walls to weaken.
- Sedentary lifestyle — when a person is standing or sitting for a long time, the blood doesn’t flow as well as it does during periods of activity.
- Injuries — mechanical injuries can damage vein valves.
- Pregnancy — the blood volume increases during pregnancy to support the fetus, thus making it harder for veins to accommodate it.
- Hormone imbalance — hormone fluctuations weaken vein walls and valves.
- Genetics — if one of the parents has varicose veins, a person is more likely to develop them.
Excessive pressure on the legs or abdomen can cause vein valve damage, thus leading to varicose vein formation. The most common causes of such pressure are pregnancy and obesity. In some cases, chronic constipation and large tumors could also cause varicose veins.
How to Prevent Varicose Veins
To prevent varicose vein formation, you need to work on eliminating or minimizing risk factors whenever possible.
- Regular exercising — muscles help veins push the blood to the heart. Any type of exercise, especially leg workouts, can prevent varicose vein formation.
- Watching your diet — by eating a balanced diet, you don’t just prevent obesity, you improve the work of your gastrointestinal tract, thus preventing constipation, which puts pressure on the veins.
- Losing weight — if you already have excess weight, work on losing it. This can reduce the pressure on your veins and prevent varicose vein formation.
- Avoiding an inactive lifestyle — standing and sitting for a long time can cause varicose veins. Adjust your schedule, so you can take frequent activity breaks at work.
Even if you already have varicose veins, doing the above can help you prevent them from getting worse. Additionally, you can:
- Put your feet up when possible to help blood flow back to your heart.
- Wear support pantyhose or compression stockings to prevent blood pooling in your veins.
If preventive measures aren’t working as well as you want them to, consider speaking with your doctor.
How to Treat Varicose Veins
Depending on your condition and symptoms, you can benefit from one of the following treatment options:
- Conservative treatment — compression stockings, leg elevation, diet, exercise, frequent activity, lifestyle changes.
- Sclerotherapy — an injection of chemicals into the varicose vein to damage its inside lining and causes the vein to close.
- Radiofrequency ablation– using radiofrequency energy to scar the vein and close it off.
- Phlebectomy — a minimally invasive procedure that removes veins that are just below the surface.
To choose the best treatment option for your varicose veins, it’s important to discuss the problem with your primary care physician. In many cases, veins can be treated with non-invasive or minimally invasive procedures.
At Beach Wellness MD, we focus on improving your quality of life. Ali Golshan, MD is a leading vascular specialist, who designs personalized varicose vein treatment plans for each patient. To set up a consultation, contact us at any convenient time.