What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins look like blue gnarled ropes on the surface of your legs and feet. It’s an embarrassing condition for many older people. Here’s what you need to know about this condition, what you can do about it, and when it may be a sign of something serious.
Your veins have a system of one-way valves that keep blood from flowing back to your feet as your heart pumps. When these valves start to wear out, the blood flows backward and pools in the veins. This causes the vein to bloat and twist, resulting in a varicose vein. While any vein in the body could develop this condition, the legs are the most common since those valves work the hardest over time.
In its most mild form, varicose veins make your legs look bumpy and gnarled. However, sensations of pain and heaviness can occur with varicose veins. This will usually increase in the evenings or when you’ve been standing or sitting for a long time. What’s happening is that the blood isn’t moving out fast enough and putting pressure on the nerves.
This is a danger sign, especially if there doesn’t seem to be a visible cause. A varicose vein inside of your muscles is a place where clots can form. A doctor can use imaging techniques to check the vein’s health. Varicose veins near the surface of the skin can also develop clots, but they’re much easier to catch. If a vein turns red, more swollen, or gets inflamed, that’s a sign to go see a doctor to check for a clot. While not as serious as a clot deeper in the body, clotting near the skin can be a warning sign of deeper venous trouble. Additionally, varicose veins can cause a form of dermatitis on their own. If your skin gets itchy, flaky, or starts bleeding near the vein, that’s another sign to see a doctor.
Anything that makes the valves wear out can cause a varicose vein. The most common reasons are age (especially after age 50), obesity, pregnancy, family history, and lack of exercise. Women are also twice as likely to develop varicose veins than men.
Fortunately, there are treatments for varicose veins. If the pain is mild, there are treatments your doctor can teach you to do self-care at home, such as wearing compression stockings, elevating your feet, increased exercise, and the use of pain medication. But sometimes a vein requires treatment. Many of the same treatments used for spider veins also work for varicose veins, like sclerotherapy, but sometimes surgical intervention is necessary.
In any event, varicose veins should not go untreated. In rare cases, varicose veins can cause skin ulcers and other serious complications. If you have varicose veins, see a doctor right away for treatment options. Many varicose vein treatment options are covered by insurance and there are several advanced forms of treatment. However, once your veins start to become varicose, there’s often little that can be done to prevent new varicose veins from developing in the future.
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