Varicose veins affect at least a quarter of the American population, and can be painful and unsightly. They most commonly occur in the legs, and are usually a result of poor blood flow. Here’s what you need to know about varicose veins and why it’s important to get them treated.
What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are veins that have become twisted and enlarged as a result of poor circulation. Blood flow in the legs goes against gravity to reach the heart for recirculation. The muscles in your legs work to pump it upwards, but if this process is impeded or made difficult, blood may pool in the legs and creates back pressure that result in your veins getting twisted and stretched out of shape. When these veins stop working properly, they become swollen and discolored and may even begin to bulge. They will usually look bruised, dark purple or blue in color, and may look like cords under your skin.
A common and milder type of varicose vein is called spider veins. These look, as their name suggests, like spider webs, are generally closer to the surface of the skin, and are red or blue in color.
While not all varicose veins cause pain, some can cause a significant amount of discomfort. Some of these symptoms include:
- Discoloration of the surrounding skin
- Pain from prolonged standing or sitting in one position
- Itching, burning, throbbing, swelling
- Muscle cramping
Certain lifestyle behaviors and conditions can encourage the growth of varicose veins. Some of these include:
- Gender: Women are twice as likely to develop varicose veins as a result of hormonal differences from men. Also, since women’s hormones change as a result of menstruation, pregnancy, hormone-controlling medications (i.e. birth control) and hormone therapies, one of the possible side effects is varicose veins. Additionally, during pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume increases to support her baby’s growth, and the additional blood can cause additional stress on veins.
- Age: As people age, their veins age with them. Pressure and stress on your veins over a lifetime of use can cause the potential of developing varicose veins to increase.
- Family history: If any of your relatives have had varicose veins, you’re more likely to get them as well.
- Obesity: Unhealthy weight gain requires your body to work harder, which affects your blood and your veins and requires your heart to work harder to maintain good circulation.
- Prolonged sitting or standing: If your lifestyle is highly sedentary or mobile, the blood in your legs may not flow as well.
If your varicose veins are giving you trouble, it may be time to see a doctor about treating them. Other complications can result, too, from letting your varicose vein condition go untreated. Some of these include:
- Bleeding: Occasionally, varicose veins are close enough to the skin that they may burst. This can cause minor bleeding and is easily treated with simple first aid, but this may also indicate that it’s time to get your varicose veins healed.
- Ulcers: Bulging veins put pressure on the tissues of the skin and can result in painful sores.
- Blood clots: Since varicose veins are the result of blood not being able to flow correctly, your blood is also more likely to clot.
Prevention & Treatment
Varicose veins cannot be fully prevented, but there are measures that you can take to help keep them from developing. Some of these include:
- Regular exercise: Exercise gets the blood flowing and makes it less likely to pool in your legs.
- Watching your weight: Since obesity is a risk factor, it’s a good idea to manage your weight if you want to avoid varicose veins.
- Eating a healthy diet: A high-fiber, low-salt diet can go a long way to keeping your blood circulation in a healthy state.
- Avoid high heels and tight pantyhose: These accessories put a lot of pressure and stress on your feet and legs, and may damage your blood circulation.
- Elevate your legs: If you’re sitting for long periods of time, you can help your blood flow properly by putting up your legs so the muscles don’t have to work so hard against gravity.
- Changing position: If your lifestyle is sedentary or mobile, take a regular break from prolonged sitting or walking.
Fortunately, even if you do have a varicose vein condition, it’s easily treated. At Virginia Vein & Wellness Center, we offer custom compression stocking fittings to help your legs feel better. We also have procedural options, such as:
- Vein ablation: This is an outpatient process that closes non-functioning vein valves and reroutes blood flow through working veins.
- Sclerotherapy: This is also an outpatient procedure in which chemicals are injected into your varicose veins to cause the vein walls to thicken and close, so that your blood will go through healthy veins.
- Microphlebectomy: This is a surgical procedure in which varicose veins are removed through tiny incisions in the skin that easily close and don’t even require stitches.
Whether your varicose vein condition is needing immediate attention or you are wanting to look into preventative treatment, we can help! Contact us today!