About Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are generally painless black or blue swollen, twisted veins that are visible under the surface of the skin. Occurring mainly in the leg, calf, ankle and foot, varicose veins are caused by faulty valves within the veins due to increased pressure of the lower body from walking or standing upright for extended periods of time.
Veins in the lower body are responsible for carrying blood from the legs up to the heart and have a particularly difficult task of keeping blood flowing steadily while traveling upwards against gravity. Within those veins are one-way valves that keep the blood from flowing back into the veins. When those valves become weak or damaged, blood collects in the legs and pressure is increased, causing veins to swell and become weak, large and twisted varicose veins.
Dermatology Associates of Atlanta’s Center for Veins specializes in vein treatment and continues to implement some of the newest treatment and skin care technology to remedy varicose veins.
- Swelling of ankles and feet
- Aching or heavy legs
- Throbbing or cramping in legs
- Discolored skin around affected veins
- Ulcers near the ankle
- Restless leg
Lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight with a high-fiber, low sodium diet, exercising (walking, bicycling or swimming) and avoiding high heel shoes, constricting clothing and hosiery are a few changes that can be made to prevent varicose veins from worsening and to delay the development of new veins.
Compression stockings are an over-the-counter solution for varicose veins. Worn daily, compression stockings improve circulation by creating pressure up the leg to prevent blood from collecting in the veins. By decreasing swelling in the legs, compression stockings allow the veins and muscles to move blood easily and more efficiently to the heart. There are many brands and types of compression stockings that vary in the amount of compression offered.
Sclerotherapy vein removal is the most common treatment to eliminate spider veins. Sclerotherapy is performed using a very fine needle to inject a liquid chemical called a “sclerosing agent” into the vein itself. The vein walls swell once the injection is administered and cohere together, creating a blood clot and stopping the flow of blood from the vein before eventually turning into scar tissue and gradually fading over the subsequent weeks. Requiring no anesthesia and minimum downtime, patients may require multiple treatments performed every 4-6 weeks for optimal results, allowing less of a chance for the recurrence of spider veins.
There are many causes of varicose veins that vary for each individual:
- Family history – Genetics is a key factor in the development of varicose veins as half of all patients who develop varicose veins also have a family member that suffers or has suffered from varicose veins.
- Age – Due to the natural aging process, our bodies deteriorate and may cause the valves in our veins to weaken and not work properly.
- Gender – According to the National Institute of Health, 33% of women and 17% of men are affected by varicose veins in the United States. Women develop varicose veins more than men as hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy and menopause can lead to the development of varicose veins.
- Pregnancy – During the development of the fetus and increases in the weight being carried by expectant mothers, pressure is added to the legs causing varicose veins.
- Weight – Obesity puts added strain on the legs as they not only support the excessive weight but also pump blood up towards the heart.
- Lack of movement – Extended periods of time spent standing or sitting with legs bent or crossed increases the pressure on the veins as they have to work harder to pump blood through compressed veins.
- Occupation – Jobs that require a lot of standing or sitting, such as a teacher, restaurant server or cook, increase the probability of developing varicose veins since blood doesn’t flow as easily when you’re continuously in the same position.
Although they may not look attractive and are mostly a cosmetic concern, varicose veins are generally painless and don’t pose health issues or require health-related treatment. In rare cases where patients experience extreme discomfort or develop blood clots or painful ulcers, treatment is required. Continuous fluid buildup in the tissue, particularly near the ankles, causes increased pressure within affected veins and develop into ulcers on the skin. Blood clots may not be visible and hide deep within the veins in the legs. More serious in nature, blood clots cause the veins to become enlarged and the legs to suddenly swell. As a blood clot travels within the body, it poses greater health risks should a clot block the blood flow to major arteries, creating potentially life-threatening issues.
Unfortunately, varicose veins cannot be prevented but there are steps that you can take to reduce the progression of existing varicose veins:
- Don’t sit or stand for extended periods of time
- Avoid crossing legs
- Improve circulation and muscle tone by engaging in physical activity
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Wear compression support stockings daily
- Avoid wearing high heels and tight or constricting clothing