Varicose veins are enlarged veins, raised above the skin. They can be purple, blue, red or flesh colored and are usually found on the thighs, back of the calves or inside the leg. They occur when the valves in the vein are not working properly. These valves keep your blood flowing in one direction – toward the heart. When these valves don’t work properly, your blood can flow backwards, creating pools of blood in your veins, which causes your veins to swell and twist.
Varicose Veins Are Common
Varicose veins become more common as you get older. By the age of 50, one-half of people have varicose veins. Women are affected more often than men, with 50 to 55 percent of women and 40 to 45 percent of men developing this vein disease.
Varicose Veins and Spider Veins Are Not the Same
Spider veins are small areas of your veins where your blood pools. They are not raised and are called spider veins because of their appearance. They can appear on different areas of your body, including your face. Spider veins are not usually a serious health problems although you might notice itching or burning in the affected area.
Varicose Veins Are Most Often Found in the Legs
Because of gravity, your legs have the most difficult task of sending blood back to your heart. The pressure of your body weight and gravity can cause the valves to not work properly and cause your blood to flow backwards. Being overweight puts additional pressure on your legs and is a risk factor for developing varicose veins.
Varicose Veins Are Not Just a Cosmetic Issue
Some people never have any problems because of their varicose veins. Others have aching, throbbing, cramping or other discomfort in their legs. They can also lead to other medical problems such as:
- Sores and skin ulcers
- Blood clots – both superficial and deep vein thrombosis
- Restless leg syndrome
- Leg or ankle swelling
Beside causing these types of problems, varicose veins can complicate other medical conditions such as heart failure, neuropathy and healing of wounds.
Varicose Veins are Hereditary
About 80 percent of all cases of varicose veins are found in people who have a family history of varicose veins. If you have varicose veins, there is a 40 percent chance your child will develop them. If you and your partner both have varicose veins, there is a 90 percent chance your children will also develop them.
Some Lifestyle Changes Can Relieve Discomfort From Varicose Veins
Losing weight, elevating your legs and exercise can help relieve the pain and discomfort that sometimes comes with varicose veins. Moving around rather than sitting or standing for long periods of time can also help. If medical testing shows that there is poor blood flow, your doctor might recommend compression stockings to help increase blood flow.
There Are Treatments for Varicose Veins
Most of the time, varicose veins do not cause any medical problems and lifestyle changes reduce any discomfort. Further treatment isn’t usually necessary. However, in some cases, treatment is necessary. There are several ways varicose veins are treated:
- Endothermal ablation – heat is used to seal the affected veins
- Sclerotherapy – a special foam is used to close the vein
- Phleboectomy – the vein is removed
If there are not any medical reasons for treatment, most insurance companies will not pay for treatment as it is considered cosmetic.
“Varicose Veins,” Reviewed 2012, August 20, Staff Writer, NHS.uk
“Varicose Veins and Spider Veins Fact Sheet,” Updated 2012, July 16, Reviewed by Robert J. Min M.D., WomensHealth.gov
Published On: April 29, 2014