Font Size: Increase | Decrease

Dealing with Varicose Veins

Millions suffer from varicose veins. However, many sufferers perceive these veins as merely a cosmetic issue. What many are unaware of is that, if left untreated, varicose veins can lead to serious medical issues. Pain, heavy legs, blood clots, and skin ulcers are just some of the medical conditions that can result from varicose veins. They can also cause swelling in the lower legs, throbbing, and even cramps. Long periods of sitting or standing can also trigger pain and other symptoms. 

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins usually occur in the legs and feet but can also develop throughout other parts of the body. In general, veins cause blood to back flow towards the heart. In order for the veins of the legs to return blood to the heart, they must work against gravity. Valves are found inside the veins to prevent the backward flow of blood. When these valves malfunction, the blood that would normally flow onwards to the heart pools in the veins causing the vein to expand and twist. As a result, discolored snake-like varicose veins appear on the legs and feet.

Who is prone to varicose veins?

Studies have shown that women from 50 to 75 years of age are likely to develop some form of varicose veins.  The calf muscles and blood vessels weaken at this stage of life. The calf muscles also help in pressuring the veins to enable blood to back flow to the heart when we walk and when this function is weakened, varicose veins often result.

Women are more prone to varicose veins that men, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy. Hormonal imbalances can also cause the blood vessels to dilate. There is some indication that taking oral contraceptives and hormone pills can increase development of varicose veins.

Another factor is heredity. If varicose veins run in the family, then there is an increased likelihood of developing them. The kind of work one does can also cause veins to have problems. For instance, those who stand up for long hours like in factories will have increase probability of having problematic vein valves. Being overweight or obese can also cause varicose veins to form.

How to prevent varicose veins

When you notice varicose veins in your legs or feet that cause pain or other complications, it is best to consult a vein doctor. This is particularly true if there is swelling, discoloration, ulcers, or pain. 

There are several ways that individuals may be able to mitigate the effects of varicose veins.  Have a form of daily exercise whether it is aerobics, working out at the gym, or simply going for a walk. Regular exercise is not only good for heart but benefits the circulation of blood in general. When possible, avoid long hours of standing or sitting. Don’t stay in one position too long and move the legs when you can and don’t cross the legs as this prevents circulation to the leg area.

Losing weight may also help individuals overcome varicose veins. Doctors can also prescribe compression stockings, since they help prevent blood from pooling in the veins. Intermittent or sequential compression therapy may also be applied during physical therapy to help the venous system.

Surgical approaches to vein removal

If they become severe enough, there are cases when surgery is the best remedy for varicose veins. Some of the most common surgical approaches to removing varicose veins include:

  1. Sclerotherapy – A chemical agent is injected into the varicose veins which cause the vein to close off and eventually disappear.
  2. Laser Therapy – Lasers or radio waves are directed into the affected veins which produces heat. The veins will slowly fade and will not be noticeable. This procedure is effective for spider veins or smaller varicose veins.
  3. Endovenous thermal ablation – The laser or radio waves’ heat is again used for this method but a small cut is made on the vein in which a catheter is put in the vein. The catheter has the heating device at its tip. The process is used for larger varicose veins.
  4. Vein Stripping – This is the oldest and most used surgical method. An incision is made on the vein and it is then pulled out from the area.
  5. Ambulatory phlebotomy – The procedure involves tiny incisions on the leg to remove small veins near the surface of the skin. It is done together with endovenous thermal ablation and vein tripping.
  6. Endoscopic vein surgery – A cut is made on the skin and a miniature camera is inserted using a small, flexible tube called endoscope. The device is then moved inside the vein. A surgical device is also located at the end of the tube so that cuts can be made or veins removed.  This invasive method is use for varicose veins that are resulting in skin ulcers.

Most of the varicose vein removal procedures are made on an outpatient basis. However, before deciding on any of them, ask a doctor about the health risks, side effects, and recovery time. Ask also of the possibility of recurrence after the vein removal.

close this window (x)