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Varicose veins are a widely prevalent disorder, with nearly one-fourth of adults in the United States being affected. Women develop varicose veins much more often than men and account for nearly three quarters of the afflicted. These swollen, twisted veins typically appear on the legs and feet, though on rare occasions they may develop elsewhere on the body. Although varicose veins are normally only a cosmetic concern, in some cases they may also cause pain, swelling, and tenderness in affected appendages due to blood being unable to flow through the constricted veins.
A condition known as superficial venous insufficiency is the primary cause of varicose veins. In healthy veins, tiny valves allow blood to flow to the heart through your veins before closing. This results in a one-way path for your blood, preventing backflow from occurring. For people who suffer from venous insufficiency, however, those valves fail to operate properly. Blood then pools in the veins, eventually increasing the amount of pressure and making the veins appear as if they are bulging out of your skin and may also cause swelling and tenderness.
Although you can usually see varicose veins at the surface of the skin, at times they may also develop on interior veins and be much more difficult to self- diagnose. Those suffering from varicose veins may feel like they have an ache or cramp, that their legs are heavier than usual, or that there is a burning or tingling sensation under their skin. Varicose veins are tender to the touch, and may also feel like they are throbbing as blood attempts to move out of them. Although varicose veins are harmless in most cases, if left untreated they may develop into more serious health problems, such as:
- Internal bleeding
- Clotting of the blood
- Ulcers in the skin
Who’s At Risk?
Anything that puts extra stress on the abdomen or legs increases your chances for developing varicose veins. Most sufferers have a history of obesity, pregnancy, or jobs that require them to stand for extended periods of time, though chronic constipation or tumors caused by other medical issues can also play a part in their development. Sedentary lifestyles can also lead to varicosity, as the muscles in your legs are not as acclimated at pumping blood as they should be. Varicose veins can also develop with age because veins weaken as you get older. A combination of leg injuries or genetics may also increase your chances of developing varicose veins.
Ordinarily, varicose veins are harmless and do not require a visit to the doctor. However, in a best case scenario they are physically unpleasant, and dangerous to your overall well-being at the worst. If your varicose veins are causing you any level of discomfort, you may need the help of a medical professional.
Doctors have a wide variety of treatment options available, and may recommend compression stockings or pantyhose that are used to constrict your leg muscles and spur the upwards flow of blood from your ankles up through your body. Medication such as pain relievers like ibuprofen or aspirin may also be prescribed to help alleviate any symptoms or pain arising from varicose veins.
In more extreme cases, your doctor may suggest the removal of a varicose vein. This can be done through laser treatment, in which a thin ray of laser energy is focused on the vein until it disappears. However, you may require several appointments before you begin to notice results, and this option can only be used for small, thin veins.
In more extreme circumstances, you may need sclerotherapy to reduce your varicose veins. In this method, a chemical is injected into the vein, causing its walls to collapse and therefore stopping any blood from moving through it. Your doctor may also recommend you remove your varicose veins surgically, through a method called stripping. Unfortunately, even after you’ve had your varicose veins removed, there is no guarantee that other veins will not eventually develop the condition, and you may require several different visits to the doctor over the course of your life to deal with any varicosity that may arise.
Ready to Get Started?
Although varicose veins may not be an immediate threat to your health, they may be unsightly in the best of cases and dangerous to your health in the worst. If you’re ready to take the first steps to managing your varicose veins, contact CORE Medical & Wellness today at 888-521-0688 to learn more or schedule an appointment!
Don’t wait until your varicose veins start causing problems. Learn more about the treatment options available at our vein treatment center.
Dr. Steven Kim received his B.A. in biochemistry from Cornell University, then completed his M.S. from Columbia University and his M.D. from the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center. Dr. Kim specializes in the treatment of varicose veins and vein disease. Read his full bio here.