LET’S GET YOU BACK TO HAPPIER AND HEALTHIER LEGS.
WHAT ARE VARICOSE VEINS?
Varicose veins are veins that are large, long, swollen, and twisted veins that usually appear on the legs, generally on the inside of the calf or thigh.
However, they can also appear in other types of the body: hemorrhoids for example are a type of varicose vein. Varicose veins are at least 3mm wide (about the size of 3 grains of salt), but can be much larger, and they may bulge out from the skin. Normal veins have one-way valves, so that blood can flow in one direction only: back to your heart. However, if the valves in the veins weaken or get damaged, this can impact the flow of blood. Instead of flowing back towards the heart, since the valves no longer work correctly, the blood is at the mercy of gravity and can instead flow backwards and pool in the veins. When blood starts to flow backwards, this is called “venous reflux.” In turn, the veins start to swell, which causes the varicose veins. The more the veins swell, the more they cause damage to the vein, leading to a vicious cycle where the varicose veins can worsen over time. Some varicose veins may be painless, but some may be painful or itchy. Other symptoms can include swelling of the ankles or legs and a heavy feeling in the legs. In more severe cases, non-healing leg sores can develop, and skin can become discolored or form rashes. Large varicose veins increase your risk of forming blood clots.
WHO IS AT RISK?
Up to 30% of the American population has varicose veins.
Varicose veins are usually more common in women than in men, and become more common with age. Other risk factors include obesity, inactivity, pregnancy, prolonged standing, heavy lifting, high blood pressure, history of blood clots in your veins, and a family history of varicose veins.
WHAT TREATMENT OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE?
Your doctor will be able to diagnose varicose veins based on tests and examining your legs.
Varicose veins can be treated. Depending on the size, place, and number of varicose veins, treatment may include sclerotherapy or treatments like VenaSeal or ablation. Your doctor can explore these options with you.
You can also do things at home to promote good vein health. Staying active with activities like walking or swimming can help reduce pressure in the legs: even flexing your calf muscles and changing positions can help to do this. Losing weight, and making sure you don’t cross your legs when you sit can also help to take pressure off the legs. If you have to stand for long periods, you may also want to consider compression stockings, to help blood flow in your legs. Choosing low-heeled shoes instead of high heels, and avoiding tight hosiery can also help. Staying out of the heat, and avoiding hot baths, can also help reduce vein dilation in the legs. Lastly, reducing the amount of salt in your diet makes your body retain less water, which can also reduce pressure in the legs and help you to avoid varicose veins.