Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins that often appear swollen and raised above the surface of the skin, usually occurring in the legs and feet. While varicose veins are rarely a serious medical condition, they can cause aching, throbbing, muscle cramping and a heavy feeling in the legs. In some cases, varicose veins can lead to more serious problems like skin ulcers, blood clots and bleeding. If you’re suffering from painful, unsightly varicose veins, a visit to a vein specialist may help provide relief.
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Causes and Risk Factors
Varicose veins often develop when the valves inside the veins stop working properly. Veins have one-way valves that prevent blood from flowing backwards as it moves up the legs and back to the heart. When these valves become damaged, blood can leak backwards and collect inside the veins, causing them to enlarge and become varicose.
There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing varicose veins:
- Age – The risk increases as you get older.
- Gender – Women are more likely to develop varicose veins than men. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, premenstruation or menopause may be a factor.
- Family history – Varicose veins can run in families.
- Obesity – Being overweight puts added pressure on your veins.
- Lack of movement – Sitting or standing for long periods of time can lead to pooling of blood in the veins.
- Prior blood clot – A deep vein thrombosis can damage the valves inside the veins.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
The most common signs and symptoms of varicose veins include:
- Visible, swollen veins, often blue or dark purple in color
- Aching, heavy, tired legs, especially after prolonged standing or sitting
- Muscle cramping in legs and feet
- Worsened pain after exercise
- Itching and burning sensations over the veins
- Skin discoloration or ulcers near varicose veins
While varicose veins sometimes cause no symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor if you notice any signs or discomfort. Left untreated, varicose veins can worsen over time.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you suspect you have varicose veins, make an appointment with Utah vein specialists for an evaluation. The doctor will examine your legs while you’re standing and look for signs of swollen veins. They may also ask about your symptoms and medical history.
In some cases, additional tests may be recommended to check for blood flow problems or identify the source of your varicose veins:
- Duplex ultrasound – This imaging test uses sound waves to check for blood clots and look at the structure of your veins.
- Venography – A contrast dye is injected to highlight the veins and check for blockages on an X-ray image.
When it comes to varicose vein treatment, there are several options available:
- Compression stockings – Special tight-fitting stockings improve blood flow and reduce swelling.
- Medications – Over-the-counter pain relievers can provide temporary relief from aching and discomfort.
- Sclerotherapy – A solution is injected into the veins, causing them to scar and shrink.
- Endothermal ablation – Heat energy is used to seal off and collapse the varicose veins.
- Vein stripping – Removal of the damaged veins through tiny incisions.
Your doctor will determine the best treatment approach based on the location and extent of your varicose veins. Procedures like sclerotherapy and endothermal ablation are minimally invasive, allowing for a shorter recovery.
While varicose veins can’t always be prevented, you can take steps to reduce your risk:
- Exercise regularly to improve circulation and muscle tone in your legs.
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods without moving.
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- Avoid wearing tight clothing around your waist and legs.
- Don’t cross your legs when sitting.
- Elevate your legs when resting.
- Avoid high heels.
See your doctor at the first sign of varicose veins so treatment can begin right away. This can help prevent complications and progression of the condition over time. With the right approach, it’s possible to reduce the appearance of varicose veins and alleviate associated aches and pains.