If you’ve recently received a diagnosis of varicose veins or are fearful that you might develop this common venous disease and are searching for everything you should (and shouldn’t) do to treat or prevent varicose veins, you’ve likely found yourself surrounded by conflicting opinions and misinformation.
It seems like everyone has something to say about who is most prone to varicose veins, why they develop, and the most effective treatment options, making it overwhelming to know what to do or not to do to prevent these painful, unsightly bulging veins.
This article aims to clarify some common myths and provide accurate information about this condition. Spoiler alert: you don’t have to give up running or crossing your legs, but you should stop smoking and start exercising!
Let’s uncover the truth about varicose veins.
What Are Varicose Veins?
Every year, millions of Americans are affected by varicose veins, which are swollen and enlarged veins visible through the skin. They usually appear as dark purplish-red or blue twisty bumps on the legs but can also develop on the arms and feet.
These veins are caused by faulty valves in the veins, which cause blood to pool. Although people over 50, women, and those with a family history are at a higher risk, this condition affects over 40 million Americans of all ages annually.
Fortunately, advanced non-invasive procedures are available to remove varicose veins, and there are preventative measures you can take. If you or a loved one needs assistance or support with varicose veins, The Vein Centre is available to help.
VARICOSE VEIN MYTHS
To make informed decisions about how to treat this vein disease, it’s essential to separate fact from fiction. This varicose vein guide of common myths and your board-certified vascular surgeon can help you learn the truth about varicose veins so you can effectively treat them and possibly prevent them before they occur.
Myth: Varicose Veins Only Affect Women
Varicose veins are more common in women, accounting for 55% of the cases. Still, varicose veins can affect men as well. In fact, varicose veins affect about 23 percent of the population in the United States and around 50% of the US population aged 50 and older.
Myth: Standing Too Long Causes Varicose Veins
Most varicose veins develop in the legs because of gravity. As blood moves through your veins, it has to work against gravity to return to the heart. If the valves in the veins are weak, blood will leak and pool up in the veins. This excess blood will cause the veins to swell and enlarge, resulting in visible varicose veins.
Standing on your feet too long does place excess pressure on the veins in your leg, which can increase your risk of developing varicose veins. However, standing too long alone doesn’t cause varicose veins; many other risk factors exist.
Myth: Crossing Your Legs Causes Varicose Veins
There is no need to stop crossing your legs. The notion that crossing your legs leads to varicose veins is a myth. Similarly, no evidence supports the belief that wearing snug attire or shoes contributes to the development of varicose veins. While crossing your legs and wearing tight clothing and footwear may exert some mild pressure, it is minimal and doesn’t exert enough force to damage your veins.
That said, if you already have varicose veins, it’s important to note that tight clothing and footwear can potentially exacerbate associated symptoms depending on the duration and location of the pressure.
Myth: Pregnancy Causes Varicose Veins
Contrary to popular belief, pregnancy does not directly cause varicose veins. Varicose veins are primarily a result of weakened vein valves and increased pressure on leg veins, influenced by genetics, lifestyle, and occupation. However, pregnancy can aggravate existing risk factors or predispositions.
During pregnancy, hormonal shifts and increased blood volume can contribute to developing or worsening varicose veins in individuals already susceptible to them. The expanding uterus may indirectly impact leg veins by exerting pressure on the pelvic veins.
Myth: Varicose Veins Always Occur With Age
As you age, your veins weaken due to wear and tear on the valves, putting older individuals at a higher risk of developing varicose veins. That said, getting older does not always result in varicose veins.
Some people go their entire lives and never have a varicose vein. Experts aren’t sure why some people are more predisposed to the walls of their veins stretching or why the valves in some individuals become faulty, causing these visibly bulgy veins to show through your skin, but they are confident that varicose veins can happen at any age and are not inevitable.
Myth: Varicose Veins Are Cosmetic Problems Only
Varicose veins can negatively affect your appearance. Many people struggle to wear shorts, shorter-sleeve shirts, and sandals because they do not want others to see the veins. Although they affect your overall look and self-esteem, varicose veins are not just cosmetic problems.
Without treatment, varicose veins can actually be dangerous in some cases.
Deep vein thrombosis is one of the most severe problems that can occur if you do not treat varicose veins. Deep vein thrombosis, DVT, occurs when a blood clot forms in the vein, causing a pulling sensation in the legs and painful pinching in the nerves. DVT can be life-threatening if the clot travels up towards the heart.
You might also develop hyperpigmentation, which is when blood from the veins leaks into the tissues of your leg. This discolors the skin but can also cause severe swelling and pain. Ulcers are also common in patients with varicose veins.
Do not write off varicose veins as merely cosmetic. If you have this vein condition, it is vital that you see a vein specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment options
Myth: Treating Varicose Veins is Painful
There is a common misconception that varicose vein treatment is a painful ordeal. Stories of invasive procedures like vein stripping with long recovery times and scarring have likely contributed to this myth. However, technological advancements have revolutionized the field of vein disease treatment, resulting in many minimally invasive, pain-free treatment options.
For example, laser ablation, also known as endovascular or endovenous laser therapy (EVLT), uses laser technology to close weak, leaking varicose veins and only causes slight bruising and temporary numbness. Another effective option is sclerotherapy, which involves injecting a solution into the vein, leading to its collapse. The process of vein destruction begins immediately, and most people experience full results within approximately two months, with only minor discomfort and no need for downtime.
Additionally, in-office treatments might not even be necessary for some people. Simple changes in your lifestyle may be sufficient for reducing the appearance of your varicose veins. These changes may include wearing compression stockings, exercising, and elevating the legs to strengthen the veins and improve blood flow.
If you are worried that treating this vein disease is painful, rest assured that numerous pain-free treatment options are available. From lifestyle changes to laser treatments, pain-free help is available for your varicose veins. For more information on varicose veins, contact The Vein Centre today.
Myth: Surgery is the Only Option to Treat Varicose Veins
While surgery was once a common approach, advancements in medical techniques have opened up a multitude of alternative treatments that are less invasive and equally effective.
Varicose vein surgery is no longer the only path for treating varicose veins. You have a variety of alternatives to consider.
Nowadays, minimally invasive procedures have gained prominence in treating varicose veins. Techniques like endovenous laser ablation (EVLA) and sclerotherapy mentioned above or radiofrequency ablation (RFA) offer excellent results without the need for extensive surgery.
Myth: Varicose Veins Always Return After Treatment
While it is true that varicose veins can sometimes recur, it is not a guaranteed outcome, especially with advancements in modern treatments and ongoing care.
Effective treatment options aim to eliminate existing varicose veins, address the underlying causes, and improve overall vein health. Procedures such as endovenous ablation and sclerotherapy target the damaged veins, sealing them off or causing them to collapse. By targeting the root cause of varicose veins, these treatments have shown remarkable success rates in preventing recurrence.
However, it is important to note that individual factors such as genetics, lifestyle choices, and ongoing vein health maintenance can influence the likelihood of varicose veins returning. Following the guidance of your healthcare professional and adopting healthy habits, such as regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and wearing compression stockings when advised, can significantly reduce the risk of recurrence.
Myth: Insurance Never Pays for Varicose Vein Treatment
Varicose veins, when causing symptoms or leading to complications, can be classified as a medical condition rather than a purely cosmetic concern. In such cases, insurance companies often recognize the need for treatment and provide coverage for medically necessary procedures. These may include minimally invasive treatments like endovenous ablation, sclerotherapy, or other approved interventions.
Of course, each insurance policy is unique, and coverage can vary. Reviewing your specific insurance plan, consulting with your provider, and understanding the terms and conditions related to varicose vein treatment are advised. If your insurance company does cover varicose vein treatment, to ensure coverage, it is crucial to follow the proper channels and meet the criteria set by your insurance provider. This typically involves obtaining a referral from your primary care physician or consulting with a vein specialist who can document the medical necessity of the treatment.
Myth: Running and Exercise Causes Varicose Veins
Contrary to popular belief, running and exercise do not cause varicose veins if you don’t already have the condition. In fact, exercise could help prevent varicose veins. Activities like walking or running promote better circulation by activating your calf muscles and increasing blood flow to your heart. This boost in circulation is excellent for your veins and can help prevent the development of varicose veins.
Exercise is beneficial for both your overall health and your vein health. It’s important to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle, as it can contribute to better vein health and reduce the risk of developing varicose veins. However, if you have already undergone varicose vein treatment, taking some precautions before running is advisable.
Myth: Varicose Veins are the Same as Spider Veins
Both varicose and spider veins are vein conditions whose causes can overlap, but they are not the same. They differ in severity and symptoms, have distinct characteristics, and require different treatment approaches.
Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins that typically appear as bulging cords on the legs. They are often accompanied by symptoms such as aching, heaviness, or swelling. Varicose veins are considered a vein disease and often necessitate medical intervention to address the underlying venous insufficiency.
On the other hand, spider veins, which occur when small blood vessels near the skin’s surface become dilated, are almost always cosmetic. This means you might not like their red or purple web-like appearance, but they won’t harm you. Spider veins might be unsightly but are generally harmless and do not cause significant symptoms or discomfort.
That said, it is important to mention that spider veins can be an early sign of chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). This vein disease can affect your quality of life and lead to complications. If you have spider veins, it’s advised to see a vein specialist to rule out and prevent further complications.
Myth: Varicose Veins are Always Visible
Varicose veins can vary in size and appearance. While they are usually visible, presenting as bulging, twisted veins under the skin, not all varicose veins are noticeable. Varicose veins may not show in the early stages. They could also be deeper within the leg, making them less visible or even invisible.
Invisible varicose veins typically still cause discomfort and symptoms such as leg pain, burning, swelling, aching, or restless legs. Visible or not, varicose veins can lead to complications. So, it’s essential to watch for symptoms and consult a vein specialist if you believe you have varicose veins.
The Truth About Varicose Veins
Although experts know that weak vein walls and valves cause varicose veins, the factors that make some people more susceptible to these things are still unclear. While many of the myths mentioned may not be the sole cause of varicose veins, they can increase your chances of getting them.
Unfortunately, some of these risk factors, such as age, gender, and genetics, cannot be controlled. However, there are three risk factors that you can manage to reduce your chances of developing varicose veins.
Excess weight puts additional pressure on the veins, particularly those in the lower extremities. This increased pressure can lead to the weakening or damage of vein valves, which are responsible for regulating blood flow. When these valves fail to function properly, blood can pool in the veins, causing them to enlarge and become varicose.
Additionally, adipose tissue (fat) can release certain substances that promote inflammation and affect the structural integrity of blood vessels. Chronic inflammation can damage vein walls and impair their elasticity, making them more susceptible to varicose vein formation.
You should maintain a healthy weight through proper nutrition and regular exercise if you want to lower your chances of developing varicose veins.
When the muscles in the legs are not regularly engaged through movement and exercise, they become less efficient at pumping blood back to the heart. This can contribute to poor circulation and increased venous pressure, further increasing the risk of varicose veins.
To decrease your chances of developing varicose veins, you should exercise and take frequent walking or standing breaks if you have a desk job. Exercise and movement get your blood flowing –to your muscles, heart, lungs, and your veins, as well. If running or weight lifting isn’t your thing, try these five yoga poses for healthy veins.
Lifestyle factors like smoking play a major role in developing varicose veins. The chemicals present in tobacco smoke can lead to the thickening of blood and a reduction in oxygen levels, which in turn slows down blood flow. This compromised circulation can directly contribute to the development of varicose veins.
Tobacco smoke isn’t the only culprit. Other components found in cigarettes can cause the arteries to become hardened and narrower, making the formation of blood clots more likely.
Cigarette smokers have a much higher risk of being afflicted with varicose veins and other vascular issues. If you are a smoker, you should take steps to stop immediately. The sooner you stop, the sooner your body can begin to reverse the damage to your veins that can lead to varicose veins.
Not all hormone fluctuations are preventable. One example being the hormones that fluctuate if you are pregnant or having your monthly cycle. However, you can limit hormone fluctuations by not taking hormonal oral contraceptive pills or hormone replacement therapy unnecessarily.
The hormones used in these drugs and treatments can relax vein walls, making it difficult for your veins to pump blood efficiently. The keyword here is unnecessary. If you are considering hormonal birth control or HRT, talk to your doctor about the potential risks and benefits and whether it’s the right choice.
Varicose Vein Treatment in Middle Tennessee
If you are worried about varicose veins, instead of searching for unreliable information, we advise you to be proactive and see a board certified vascular surgeon that specializes in vein disease.
Our vein specialists at our certified vascular lab at The Vein Centre can evaluate your vein health and suggest customized treatment options based on your requirements. Don’t let misunderstandings confuse you. Contact us now for professional care and a way towards successful varicose vein treatment.