Varicose veins are a common, treatable medical condition that occurs when the veins under the skin are swollen, twisted, and bulging. You’ve probably heard about varicose veins or have them yourself. But do you know what causes them? And what treatment options you have? Read on to find out the answers to these questions and much more.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
To understand how varicose veins occur, you first need to understand the veins in the body. Veins are blood vessels that transport blood from all other parts of the body to the heart. There are superficial veins closer to the skin surface, deep veins that are closer to the center of the body, and perforating veins that connect the superficial and deep veins.
All veins contain one-way valves that open up to let blood through and close to prevent it from flowing backward. If the valves become damaged or weakened, they will not function properly, allowing blood to leak or flow backward and pool in the veins. This causes the veins to become swollen, enlarged, and twisted, causing varicose veins to develop.
This condition is less commonly caused by certain diseases, including blood clots/any obstruction to blood flow in the veins, phlebitis (inflammation of the veins), or congenital abnormalities of the veins.
Any vein can become varicose. They can develop in the pelvic area (pelvic congestion syndrome), testicles (varicocele), and even around the anus leading to hemorrhoids. That being said, veins that are farthest from the heart are the most commonly affected. That’s because gravity makes it much harder for blood to flow upward to the heart. For this reason, most varicose veins occur on the legs and feet, particularly in the calves.
Who Is Likely To Get Varicose Veins?
Anyone can develop this condition; in fact, about 1 in 4 adults in the US will deal with this condition in their lifetime. However, several things can aggravate the varicose veins or increase the likelihood of one developing them. For starters, prolonged standing or sitting puts more strain on the venous valves, and blood doesn’t flow as well, causing the veins to stretch from increased pressure.
Certain health conditions also have the potential to cause varicose veins. This includes any condition that puts pressure on the abdomen, such as pregnancy. Obesity and excess weight puts pressure on blood vessels, including veins, causing them to work harder to pump blood. This increased pressure on valves makes them more prone to leaking, allowing blood to flow backward and pool in the veins.
As we age, veins start to lose their elasticity and stiffen, while valves don’t work as well as they used to. That wear, eventually, causes some blood to flow back into the veins where they collect and cause the veins to swell and bulge.
In rare cases, varicose veins result from other health issues like a previous blood clot, pelvic tumors or cysts, traumatic injury, and abnormal blood vessels.
Diagnosing Varicose Veins
A doctor will conduct a physical examination, mainly visual, to decide whether or not a patient has varicose veins. This condition is noticeable in appearance, and the doctor will simply check for signs, which usually include:
- Bulging veins
- Veins that are dark purple or blue
- Aching, discomfort, and heaviness over or around the enlarged veins
- Itching around your veins
- Skin discoloration around a varicose vein
Severe varicose veins can lead to long-term mild swelling, which in turn causes more serious skin and tissue problems like ulcers and non-healing sores. The doctor may also order an ultrasound or a venogram to assess your veins further to ensure another disorder like blockage or blood clot isn’t the cause of the pain and swelling in your legs or the affected area.
Doctors will first recommend lifestyle changes to help relieve pain and prevent the varicose veins from worsening. This includes things like:
- Exercising regularly to improve blood circulation
- Losing weight
- Avoiding prolonged standing or sitting
- Elevating the affected area to aid blood flow
- Not wearing tight clothing
Wearing compression stockings is another form of treatment that helps to reduce the appearance of varicose veins and relieve discomfort. These place enough pressure on the veins to prevent them from stretching and improving blood flow. Keep in mind that compression stockings are only effective when worn regularly.
If these lifestyle changes aren’t working or your condition is causing a lot of pain or affecting your overall health, minimally invasive treatment options are available. This includes:
- Endovenous thermal ablation
Talk with your doctor about these treatment options and know the risks beforehand. The method recommended for you will depend on your symptoms, the location of the varicose vein, and its size.
What Is The Outlook For People Who Have Varicose Veins?
For some patients varicose veins are only a cosmetic concern. But often they can be medical in nature with symptoms ranging from pain, to swelling, to nonhealing wounds in the legs.
If you have medical symptoms or are concerned by the appearance of your varicose veins seeking an expert opinion is justified. If not treated, this condition can cause skin discoloration and ulcers (open sores).
Learn More About Varicose Veins from Dr. Golshan
There’s so much more to learn about varicose veins that we cannot fit in a single post. But hopefully, this information has given you a basic understanding of what varicose veins are and their causes. If you have varicose veins, it’s time to take appropriate steps to get rid of them. This will help you regain your self-confidence and avoid possible health issues. Beach Wellness is the place for you. We provide a thorough evaluation regarding a patient’s vein health to ensure the best course of action for their long-term health. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Golshan today to know how to resolve your vein issues.