Varicose veins are twisted and bulging veins that can occur anywhere on the body but are usually seen on the back of the leg. They are caused by the deterioration of valves in the veins or the actual walls of the veins. Standing and walking causes more pressure on the veins in the lower area so that’s why they are more prevalent on the leg and thigh area and also the foot. They can be unsightly but fortunately just a cosmetic issue for many; for others the breakdown and inflammation of the veins can lead to poor blood circulation and more serious issues.
There are many factors that can contribute to this ailment. While they mainly affect older women and pregnant women, anyone is at risk and sufferers can be found among women and men of all ages; it’s very common.
The Following Factors Increase The Likelihood Of Their Development:
- Family history
- Weight gain
- Inactive lifestyle
- Standing or sitting for long time periods
Family history or genetics increase the risk for all types of illness, physical and mental. Weight gain/obesity and pregnancy weight puts extra pressure on the veins in our lower extremities as we spend so much time on our feet and the extra weight and blood flow during pregnancy is added pressure on the veins. Another issue with pregnancy is the decrease of blood flow from the legs to pelvis. Sitting as well as standing for long periods decreases blood flow. Women tend to be more afflicted than men because of experiencing events that cause hormonal changes that men don’t go through, such as pregnancy, menstruation and menopause. Female hormones cause vein walls to slacken. Finally, as with every other part of our body, age causes deterioration to the veins triggering blood to collect in one spot, which will affect regular blood flow to our heart.
Although physicians, scientists and others in the medical field have been able to identify some of the causes and risk factors, there is still conflicting evidence as to how it actually happens. In some cases, the lack of valves or their failure will cause poor blood circulation or blood flowing backwards, which in turn creates the bulging in the veins. The job of the valve within the vein is to keep the blood flowing towards the larger veins and the heart. Another defect of vein function happens when the vein walls deteriorate and weaken and don’t function as well, causing accumulation of blood. Sometimes the blood in the affected veins looks blue because they hold deoxygenated blood that is being recirculated.
Much less frequently, disease is the cause Phlebitis is a disease-presenting blockage to blood flow, clotting of the blood or vein abnormality present from birth. Another is venous disease, which is a progressive vein disease.
Obvious And Not So Obvious Signs:
- Dark purple or blue veins
- Cordlike veins on legs
- Itching around veins
- Bleeding from affected vein
- Inflammation or ulcers of skin near ankles
- Pain from affected vein(s) especially after standing/sitting for a long time
- Sore or weighty feeling in leg
- Crampy burning bloated leg
Seek medical attention if any of the following occur. If you notice an ulcer forming near the affected vein(s); they usually form near the ankle and a spot may form before the ulcer. Although infrequent, veins near the skin surface sometimes burst and cause bleeding. See a doctor to investigate. Sudden swelling of the leg is more urgent and requires immediate attention, as this may be a blood clot.
Can I Prevent Or Lessen The Occurrence?
There’s no sure way to prevent an occurrence or reoccurrence but there are ways to lessen the chance. Finding ways to stay active to boost blood circulation and developing good muscle tone goes a long way. Also, certain activities and lifestyle changes that are used to treat the symptoms may also help to prevent them as well. They are:
- Watch weight gain
- No high heels/stockings
- High fiber/low salt diet
- Elevate legs
- Change sitting/standing position often
Different Types Of Treatments
Sclerotherapy is a non-surgical varicose vein treatment that utilizes a technique of injecting a solution into the veins to close them up. It is used for small to medium sized veins and can be performed at a physician’s office. A saline solution may be used and the pain is mild. Foam sclerotherapy is a foam varicose veins treatment where the large veins are injected with a foam solution. The foam varicose veins treatment is a newer technique.
Laser treatments are a more technologically advanced option and non-surgical varicose vein treatment, as no incisions or needles are necessary. The laser produces strong bursts of light to shrink smaller sized veins.
For larger veins, doctors use a combination of laser energy and a catheter. The doctor pushes the catheter into the vein and uses the laser energy to heat the tip. While the catheter is being extracted, the heat causes the vein to collapse and close.
Ligation and vein stripping is an outpatient procedure where the doctor ties off a vein before the connecting point to a deep vein, and then takes out the vein with small incisions. The removal of the vein won’t cause any harmful effects to circulation as deeper leg veins will handle larger volumes of blood.
Another procedure is called ambulatory phlebectomy and is done on an outpatient basis for small varicose veins. The doctor makes some very small punctures through the skin. The areas punctured are anesthized and the scarring is very little.
Endoscopic vein surgery is an outpatient procedure used for leg ulcers as a kind of last resort when other methods don’t work. A tool with video camera capabilities is put inside the leg to view and manipulate the affected veins before removing them through small surgical cuts.
There is also alternative medicine for a related condition where the veins in the leg have difficulty with blood flow to the heart. These are named as follows: butcher’s broom, horse chestnut and sweet clover. All parts of a grape (leaves, sap and seed included) are also said to be beneficial. As always, consult your doctor before using any alternative medicine.