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Varicose Veins

Understanding what's underneath the surface.

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What are varicose veins?

Bulging veins that indicate an underlying disease that we can treat.

Varicose veins are enlarged, bulgy veins that you can clearly see above the surface of the skin. They’re found most commonly in the legs, but not always.

Varicose veins aren’t always just directly under the skin–they often occur deeper underneath the skin’s surface where you can’t easily see them. This is where vein disease can lay hidden, worsening over time, so it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of varicose vein disease so you can seek the expertise of a vascular specialist. In order to successfully manage varicose vein disease, it must be treated at the source.

Symptoms of varicose veins

Aside from an unpleasant appearance, symptoms and warning signs of varicose veins can include: pain, fatigue, itching, burning, swelling, cramping, restlessness, and throbbing.

Appearance
Large, bulging, rope-like; color varies
Location
Usually legs, rarely arms
Severity
Moderate, and indicative of vein disease
Discomfort
Moderate; frequently a problem

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What causes varicose veins?

Most people have varicose veins because of malfunctioning valves.

Varicose veins are caused by unhealthy valves inside the veins that impede the normal flow of blood back to the heart. Blood pools in the veins, enlarging and distorting them. Watch the video below and learn more about varicose veins and the available treatment options.


Overview
If you have swollen, twisted veins beneath your skin, you have varicose veins. Most often, they are found in the legs and the feet. They can be painful, and many people feel embarrassed by them.

Causes of varicose veins
Varicose veins are caused by a problem with the one-way valves inside your veins. The valves help control blood flow. In your legs, for example, veins must fight gravity to lift your blood back up to your heart. The valves keep your blood from seeping back down in the brief moments between heartbeats. If your valves are weak or damaged, blood leaks down and pools in your veins. Your veins swell and stretch. They may begin to twist as they expand.

Risk factors of varicose veins
Varicose veins are more common in women and in older people. Your risk is higher if you have a family history of the condition. Being overweight can increase your risk. Being pregnant can, too. Your risk is higher if you do a lot of standing or sitting all day, especially if you sit with crossed legs for long periods. And, previous blood clots or vein injuries can increase your risk.

Symptoms of varicose veins
Symptoms of varicose veins may include bulging veins and discolored skin. Your veins may be painful. In your legs, you may have aches and cramping and a heavy feeling. Your legs and ankles may itch. Your ankles and feet may swell. And if your condition is severe, you may develop a rash and sores on your skin.

Treatment for varicose veins
If you have varicose veins, you may benefit from losing weight or from wearing different shoes or clothes. It may help to raise your legs when you rest. Compression stocking may also help. You may benefit from a medical procedure to treat your veins. Your healthcare provider can create a plan that is right for you.

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Who gets varicose veins?

Men and women of all ages can develop varicose veins.

Many of us will eventually encounter vein health issues. In fact, it is estimated that 1 in 10 men and 1 in 3 women are currently suffering from varicose vein disease. Varicose vein disease is progressive and often hereditary so if your parents or grandparents have or had varicose veins, you are at risk to develop them, too. If you become pregnant or have a job or lifestyle that requires standing in place for long periods of time, this may worsen the condition.

Common risk factors for varicose veins

Certain factors put people at greater risk of developing varicose veins.

The most common risk factors for varicose veins include:

  • Obesity. Being overweight puts extra pressure on the veins.
  • Age. Because vein disease is progressive, older people who have not received appropriate treatment often have advanced varicose vein disease.
  • Pregnancy. In order to support the growth of a baby, blood volume nearly doubles during pregnancy. This additional blood volume leads to increased pressure on the veins and delicate valves which can cause them to fail, creating varicose veins.
  • Genetics. The chances of developing varicose veins increases if others in the family suffer from them.
  • Sedentary lifestyle. Sitting or standing for extended periods of time causes blood to pool in the veins of the leg which over time causes the veins to stretch, damaging the valves which leads to varicose vein disease.
  • Gender. Due to hormonal changes women experience during pregnancy and menopause, varicose veins are more likely to occur in women.

Varicose Vein Prevention & Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes to improve your varicose veins.

Though not all varicose vein risk factors can be avoided, lifestyle changes can help improve vein health, slow the progression of varicose vein disease, and provide some much needed symptom relief. Below are a few lifestyle changes to help with varicose vein disease:

  • Exercise. Movement helps promote healthy blood flow. Even something as simple as walking can do wonders for your veins.
  • Diet. By eating a diet full of fiber and low in salt, processed foods and sugar, vein health is able to improve.
  • Changing position. Keep from being sedentary in sitting or standing for too long by switching up positions.
  • Elevate legs. Raising legs above the heart aids veins in circulating blood by alleviating pressure and stress.
  • Wear compression stockings. These socks help support blood flow while also decreasing pressure inside the veins, and ultimately relieve common varicose vein symptoms such as pain and swelling

Varicose Vein Diagnosis

Diagnosis of varicose veins happens with a simple physical examination by a vein specialist.

So if you notice your pain, aching, throbbing, tiredness, or restlessness in your legs, especially in the evening or if you have started noticing spider veins, swelling, or maybe even a varicose vein or two, schedule a consultation with a physician who is dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of varicose vein disease. The sooner you receive a diagnosis, the sooner you can be on your way to recovery.

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Varicose vein disease diagnosis is done through a combination of a physician exam and discussion with a provider specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of vein diseases, as well as a thorough ultrasound, performed by a highly trained, credentialed ultrasound technologist.

Varicose veins treatment

Quick, effective outpatient visits treat the root cause, not just the symptoms.

Varicose veins and their underlying cause are quite treatable, and it’s our specialty at Vein Clinics of America. We offer patients two main varicose vein treatment procedures – both quick, minimally invasive, and requiring no hospitalization – that seal off veins with unhealthy valves. Blood circulation then returns to the veins with properly working valves, and closed veins are eventually absorbed back into the body.

Learn more about treatment for varicose veins
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