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Varicose Veins

Varicose Veins are bulging, twisted, and swollen veins that often appear blue or dark purple. They occur as a result of faulty valves that function improperly by restricting blood flow. One-way valves in the veins prevent blood from flowing backwards, but if these valves begin to fail, then blood gets collected in the veins instead of traveling back to the heart. This causes the veins to enlarge and become varicosed.

Any superficial vein (a vein close to the surface of the body) may become varicosed, but it most commonly occurs in the legs. This is because the leg veins are located furthest away from the heart and must work against gravity to let the blood travel upwards.

Common Symptoms

The most common symptom of varicose veins are bulging, twisted veins that appear blue or dark purple, but some other symptoms that may be experienced are:

  • Swollen legs or ankles
  • Aching or haviness in the legs
  • Burning, throbbing or cramping in the lower extremities
  • Itching around the veins
  • Discoloration around the varicose vein
  • Increased pain after long periods of sitting or standing

Spider vs. Varicose Veins

Spider veins are:

  • A milder variation of varicose veins that are also caused by blood buildup due to improper vein functions. 
  • Thinner and smaller than varicose veins, are typically red or blue, and can be seen under the skin as opposed to bulging out of the skin.
  • Usually occur on the chest, legs, or face and have a “spider web” looking appearance.
  • Usually painless and can simply be treated by cosmetic procedures, as opposed to varicose veins which can be very painful and may require surgery.

 

 

Risk Factors

Genetics

You are at higher risk if a family member has had a history of varicose veins

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the increased volume of blood enlarges the veins in your legs

Gender

Women are more likely to develop varicose veins due to various hormonal changes

Weight

Being overweight adds more pressure to your veins which cause a lack of blood circulation

Age

Function of the valves in veins reduces over time which causes the blood to collect in the veins

Excessive Standing

When standing for too long, blood doesn’t flow as well throughout the body

Genetics

You are at higher risk if a family member has had a history of varicose veins

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the increased volume of blood enlarges the veins in your legs

Gender

Women are more likely to develop varicose veins due to various hormonal changes

Age

Function of the valves in veins reduces over time which causes the blood to collect in the veins

Excessive Standing

When standing for too long, blood doesn’t flow as well throughout the body

Weight

Being overweight adds more pressure to your veins which cause a lack of blood circulation

Women & Varicose Veins

  • Women have a higher risk of developing varicose veins, in fact, women are almost 4x more likely to develop varicose veins than men.
  • Pregnant women are at an even greater risk because they have extra blood in their body and a growing uterus, both of which put excess pressure on the veins.
  • Pregnant women also experience changes in the blood vessel walls due to hormone level changes. The varicose veins typically go away after a few months following childbirth, however, they may reappear with each additional pregnancy.

 

 

Diagnosis

A healthcare professional will first give a physical examination to diagnose someone with varicose veins. This will include examining the legs for swelling and asking about symptoms and discomfort levels. After the physical exam, the following test will likely be used:

  • Venous Ultrasound: a type of ultrasound scan in which high-frequency sound waves are used to create pictures of the leg veins, which allows the doctor to evaluate the veins.

 

Home Remedies

Most varicose veins don’t result in any serious health problems, however, in severe cases the vein may eventually rupture or cause an ulcer or blood clot. Treatment is available to avoid the risk of these complications, to alleviate the discomforting symptoms, or for cosmetic reasons if one so chooses. Home remedies will likely be recommended first, which include:

Regularly Exercising
Regular physical activity improves blood circulation in the legs, which helps to move the blood that’s collected in the vein. Low-impact exercises (like walking, cycling, and yoga) work best to engage the calf muscles without causing excessive strain.
Avoid Standing
Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time by frequently moving around or changing positions, and avoid crossing your legs while sitting as this can further restrict blood flow.
Losing Weight
Excess weight puts extra pressure on your veins, therefore, losing weight can improve blood circulation which helps treat varicose veins. Foods high in potassium (such as almonds, leafy vegetables, and salmon) help to reduce water retention, while foods high in fiber (such as nuts, oats, and whole-grain foods) help to prevent constipation. These food groups support a healthy diet that can help to shed extra pounds and improve blood circulation to treat varicose veins.
Elevation
Elevating the legs improves circulation and helps to move blood back to the heart. Someone who sits for long periods of time should ensure to elevate their legs often to maintain healthy blood flow.

In-Office Treatments

Endovenous Laser Ablation

A minimally invasive procedure in which a laser is inserted through the skin and into the varicose vein. This is typically done to treat large varicose veins and takes about 30 minutes.

Compression Stockings

Compression stockings are specifically designed to encourage upwards blood flow to the heart by squeezing the legs to improve circulation. These help to relieve pain and reduce swelling.

Talk to a Vein Specialist Today!

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