What are Varicose Veins and How to Treat Them

Unlike arteries, veins contain one-way valves that assist the circulation of blood in the legs to move against gravity and return to the heart. For some individuals, the valves may weaken and breakdown causing blood to back up and collect until the veins bulge and begin to twist. Spider veins are enlarged capillaries, or tiny veins, that may appear in smaller sprays of bluish stripes on the legs or ankles. Varicose veins are larger vessels that are commonly found on the backs of the calves, the thighs and the inside of the legs. Although varicose veins present discoloration to the skin and may be distressing to the sufferer, they don’t usually cause serious problems. Fortunately, recent breakthroughs in treating varicose veins have made procedures virtually painless and with minimal side-effects for the patient.

Causes of Varicose Veins

Weakened valves that result in varicose veins may have a genetic component and tends to run in families. Although certain conditions can increase the risk of weak blood vessels, most common causes of varicosities include:

  • Pregnancy may cause varicose veins due to the increased pressure on the blood vessels and the rise in blood pressure.
  • Obesity or being overweight can challenge the delicate valves of the veins in the lower extremities.
  • Working in a position that requires long hours of standing or sitting.
  • Aging can also weaken the valves and increase pressure that causes bulging of the veins.

Varicose Vein Signs and Symptoms

Commonly, the skin over the swollen vein is a bluish color or discoloration that may resemble stripes. People who suffer with varicosities often report that their legs feel heavy and ache after standing or sitting for long periods of time. Other symptoms of varicose veins may include:

  • Mild swelling of the ankles and feet
  • Itching or redness over the affected areas
  • Dry scaly skin

Self-Care and Treatment for Varicose Veins

Preventing the worsening of bulging veins can be accomplished with simple techniques performed on a daily basis. To decrease the pain and aching legs:

  • Avoid standing or sitting for extended periods of time
  • Wear compression stockings that support the venous structures in the legs
  • Elevate legs whenever possible during the day
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing
  • Exercise the muscles of the legs to help move blood back to the heart

Medical Treatment Options for Varicose Veins

People with varicose veins may want to decrease their symptoms, minimize skin discoloration and improve appearance of the lower extremities. Fortunately, proven medical techniques have been developed that offer good results and little discomfort.

  • Sclerotherapy is for small to medium veins and requires a chemical that is injected by a physician into the vein that forces it to close. In a few weeks after the treatment the vein fades away. This procedure does not require an anesthetic and can be performed on an outpatient basis.
  • Vein Stripping requires the insertion of a small incision and the removal of the vein. This procedure is usually for larger veins, and can be performed in an outpatient facility. Laser Surgeries are used for spider veins and smaller clusters of varicosities. The laser produces powerful bursts of light that fade the varicose veins over time. This procedure is non-invasive and does not require any incisions or injections.
  • Catheter-Assisted Procedures are for large veins and performed by a physician that inserts a thin tube into the vein and applies heat. As the catheter is withdrawn, the heat destroys the tissues and causes the vein to be sealed shut.
  • Varicose Veins May Return After Treatment

Some people may experience the recurrence of varicose veins after treatment. Over a period of time, valves may weaken and new veins can bulge and enlarge. For best results, follow self-care treatments and take care of the delicate structures of the legs.

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