Wondering if you have varicose veins? Read below to learn how to recognize varicose veins, their symptoms, causes and common myths so that you can understand when you should see a doctor.
Simply put, varicose veins are veins that are enlarged. While any vein in the body may be varicose, it is usually common in feet and legs. This is because while you are walking or are in an upright position, you increase the pressure in the veins which are situated in your lower body and therefore have to fight against gravity (1).
Varicose veins range from being mild to more severe. Most people who have them, barely notice they are there, while others may feel a tremendous amount of discomfort and pain. In rare cases, varicose veins may develop into a serious condition.
What Are The Symptoms Of Varicose Veins?
- Veins may be twisted and bulging. It may look as if you have cords in your legs (2).
- The color of veins may be blue or dark purple.
- Feet and ankles may be swollen.
- Legs can feel heavy and tired.
- Legs may feel itchy or painful (3).
Varicose Veins are enlarged and are most common in the feet and legs. Usually, it is not a serious condition but can cause discomfort and pain. Symptoms of varicose veins include the color of veins changing to blue or dark purple, as well as veins which can be twisted and building. When someone has varicose veins, it may be itchy, and people may experience muscle cramps and lower leg swelling.
What Are Some Of The Causes Of Varicose Veins?
- Age - Veins lose elasticity as we age. As a result, the valves in the veins can longer close properly which makes blood that is supposed to be traveling to the heart, start flowing backwards, with gravity, down towards the legs.
- Pregnancy - During pregnancy, blood count increases and pregnancy hormones cause blood vessels to relax. This means there is more blood to transport and veins have to work much harder (4).
- Heredity - If your mother and grandmother suffered from varicose veins, there is a very good chance you will as well.
- Obesity - Excess weight put more pressure on the legs and therefore on the veins.
- Prolonged Periods of Standing - This doesn't help fight the natural gravity like walking would. Getting legs moving is key to blood circulation.
- Birth Control Pills - Certain people may be susceptible to varicose veins if they take birth control pills. This can be due to the hormones which are similar to pregnancy hormones which can cause blood vessel walls to relax (5).
- Constipation - Chronic constipation can also put excess pressure on legs which may lead to varicose veins (6).
Varicose Veins can be due different factors. Some of them include age, pregnancy, genes, obesity, prolonged periods of standing, birth control pills and chronic constipation.
What Are The Dangers Of Untreated Varicose Veins?
As mentioned, varicose veins in most patients are not a serious condition but can become one if not treated.
Venous Leg Ulcer
Varicose Veins may lead to a condition known as chronic venous insufficiency, which can result in venous leg ulcer. That occurs when the skin has broken down to show the flesh. The condition can exacerbate over time, which may lead to irritation and discomfort in the legs (7).
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Health experts consider Deep Vein Thrombosis to be a very severe condition related to varicose veins. The condition stems from a blood clot and leads to a pulling sensation in the legs. Individuals will experience redness and swelling in their legs. When the blood clot goes to the upper body, the condition may be chronic (8).
Varicose veins break down the walls of the skin. When this happens, the varicose veins move closer to the skin's surface. A small scratch may cause bleeding. Patients will experience excessive blood loss if the condition is untreated.
The blood will leak into the tissues of the leg if the varicose vein is untreated. Hyperpigmentation is a condition when parts of the skin become dark. Individuals may experience swelling and inflammation.
Common Myths About Varicose Veins
You may have heard myths about varicose veins. Here we address some common ones to set the record straight (9).
Crossed Legs Cause Varicose Veins
Since not one study has proven that varicose veins are caused by crossing your legs, the statement is false.
Varicose Veins Do Not Cause Any Harm
While most patients have not reported experiencing serious conditions, if left untreated, varicose veins may lead to swelling and thickened skin, as well as itching and aching.
Exercise Makes Varicose Veins Worse
Health experts have recommended exercise to all their patients, including ones with varicose veins, as it leads to good health. Patients who suffered from deep venous insufficiency reported that walking helped as the contractions propelled the blood to the center of the body.
Varicose Veins Are Always Visible
Several patients have reported having varicose veins without the veins bulging from their legs. In certain cases, the varicose veins are deep, therefore cannot be seen but symptoms such as leg cramps, swelling and achy legs occur.
Surgery Is The Only Treatment
Waiting to deal with varicose veins can make them increasingly worse until surgery is the only option. However, most of the time, varicose veins can be treated via nonsurgical means (10). Different treatment options include:
- Compression stockings - These are tight fitting socks or stockings which ensure proper blood flow for your legs. Even people who don't have very bothersome varicose veins will wear these on long flights. While they will not diminish varicose veins, compression stockings will alleviate the pain and swelling.
- Supplements - Taking a high quality supplement which treats the underlying cause of varicose veins, is not invasive and helps many people.
- Injections - These can be foam medications which close up the affected vein. Blood will get rerouted elsewhere in your body so that the varicose vein will no longer bulge.
- Glue - Specialized medical glue will also close up a varicose vein in order to treat it.
- Sclerotherapy - Doctors use a salt solution to inject it into the vein.
- Laser light treatments - A device that makes use of heat energy destroys the abnormal veins.
If varicose veins are untreated, it may lead to serious conditions such as bleeding, hyperpigmentation and deep vein thrombosis. Some of the myths of varicose veins are that it is caused by crossing your legs, surgery is the only treatment and varicose veins are always visible.
Don't be worried if you notice the development of varicose veins. Make an appointment to see your physician to discuss lifestyle changes and possible treatment option in order to best take care of your the health of your veins.