Causes, Treatment, and Prevention
What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are large, twisted, sometimes lumpy veins that typically occur in the legs. For many people, varicose veins are simply a cosmetic concern. For others, the condition is painful and may lead to more serious vascular issues. Varicose vein treatment varies according to the severity of the condition.
Varicose Vein Symptoms
The first symptom of varicose veins is typically visual, i.e. veins that are purple or blue. In addition, they may be twisted, bulging, and lumpy.
Other symptoms of varicose veins may include:
- Leg pain that feels worse after extended periods of sitting or standing
- Legs feeling achy or heavy
- Lower legs experiencing throbbing, muscle cramping, or a burning sensation
- Itchy feeling and/or skin discoloration in the area surrounding the affected vein
Not everyone feels pain or discomfort with varicose veins.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Your veins are part of your circulatory system. The heart pumps blood through your body via arteries. Veins then carry the blood back to your heart. To do this, they must fight against gravity. The elasticity of the vein’s walls, muscles in your legs, and the vein’s valves all work together to keep blood flowing properly.
The valves inside your veins open to allow blood to flow through and then close again. When these valves become damaged, the blood flows backwards, causing it to pool within the vein. This, in turn, causes the vein to become twisted and enlarged.
The following raise your risk of developing varicose veins:
- Age: Over time, wear and tear on those valves causes damage and impedes proper blood flow
- Extended periods of standing or sitting: Muscle contractions in your legs aid blood flow; extended periods of standing or sitting lead to fewer muscle contractions, weakening the veins
- Gender: Women are more likely to develop varicose veins as estrogen makes vein walls weaker
- Obesity: Extra weight makes your entire circulatory system work harder, putting added pressure on your veins
- Pregnancy: Hormonal changes and an increased volume of blood combine to enlarge the veins in your legs
Family and personal medical history of varicose and spider veins also increase your risk of developing varicose veins.
Varicose Vein Treatment
Varicose vein treatment options vary according to the severity of the condition.
Treatment options include:
- Healthy lifestyle changes: Losing weight, exercising more, elevating the legs when sitting or lying down, and moving around at least every 30 minutes all help reduce symptoms and ease pain
- Compression stockings: These exert steady pressure on your legs, which helps improve blood flow
- Sclerotherapy: An effective treatment that closes the vein by injecting it with a solution or foam
- Endo venous laser therapy: Commonly referred to as EVLT, it involves inserting a small laser fiber into the affected vein, closing and shrinking it with the laser’s energy
- Micro-phlebectomy: After administering a local anesthetic, the doctor makes a small incision to gently remove the vein; reserved for larger, tortuous veins
Dr. Favata works with you to determine the best treatment options for your unique situation.