Varicose veins are a common condition that affects almost 23 percent of the entire American population and affects women twice as much as it affects men. It is also a hereditary condition. People who have varicose veins running in the family are more susceptible to it.
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are a result of a condition in which the veins in the legs become visibly swollen and twisted. They can be recognized by their bulging blue chord-like appearance on the surface of the legs. Sometimes these twisted veins are accompanied by patches of capillaries surrounding them which given their spider web-like appearance are known as spider veins. Although harmless in nature, varicose veins can be annoying due to their disfiguring and painful nature. When they are inflamed, they can become incredibly tender to touch and might even hinder proper blood circulation to the legs, leading to itchy skin, swollen ankles, and pain in the affected limb.
All varicose veins are not always superficial. Some of them might be deep-seated and might not even show on your leg. Our legs have a large spread out venous network deep inside. In some cases, extremely rare, one of these interior veins might become varicose. So, even though it might not show on the surface, it would still cause the same symptoms of pain and swelling throughout the leg. You might also find some sites where blood clots might have formed, which would be a tell-tale sign of varicose vein formation.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins occur when the veins in the legs of an affected person are unable to function properly to push the deoxygenated blood back to the heart for oxygenation. The arteries in the human body are entrusted with the task of spreading oxygenated blood to various parts and organs of the body. To achieve this task, the arteries have thick layers of elastic tissue and muscles, which helps the blood to flow through and reach different parts of the body.
Once the organs have used up the oxygenated blood, the deoxygenated blood is then carried by the veins back to the heart for renewal with freshly pumped oxygen. For this, the veins use the surrounding muscles and one-way valves to push the deoxygenated blood upwards towards the heart.
The one-way valves open and close alternately to ensure the blood goes upwards and prevents backflow of the blood by closing up again. In the case of varicose veins, the valves do not work properly. Because of this, the blood starts pooling inside the veins, causing increased pressure within the veins leading to congestion and the veins to twist and bulge out due to all the built-up pressure.
Who is at Risk for Varicose Veins?
Conditions that lead to excessive pressure being placed on the legs, such as obesity, chronic constipation, or pregnancy, might increase the risk of varicose veins. Advanced age could also lead to the condition, as varicosity in the veins increases with the advancement in age.
Among other factors that might lead to this condition are:
- Occupations involving standing for long hours
- Hormonal imbalances, such as pregnancy or menopause
- Use of contraceptive pills
- History of blood clots
- Increased pressure in the abdomen
How Can You Identify Varicose Veins?
Following are the most tell-tale symptoms of varicose veins:
- Painful, sore, tender, and heavy legs
- Swelling in the feet, especially the ankles, after standing for long periods
- Prominent blue blood vessels or purple patches are seen clearly on the thighs and calves
How Can You Treat Varicose Veins?
There are multiple ways of treating varicose veins, which can include wearing compression socks and losing weight, among others, in cases where obesity is the cause leading to varicose veins. However, these are more uncomplicated steps which are used to keep the condition in control when it is in its early stages. To treat varicose veins at their very core, endovenous laser treatment is most effective.
This procedure is also known as endovenous ablation of varicose veins. In this procedure, a tiny laser fiber is inserted into the affected vein, and small pulses of laser light or radiofrequency are sent intermittently into the varicose vein causing it to collapse. The laser or the radiofrequency helps burn or cauterize the affected vein, thus putting a stop to the ache, pain, bruising and inflammation that was being caused by it.
This is an out-patient treatment, and the patient is given anesthesia to make them comfortable during the procedure. If you have been on aspirin, blood thinners, or non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, then your doctor might ask you to stop taking them quite a few days before the procedure.
The first step to treating varicose veins is understanding the severity of the condition and finding out the best treatment option available to you. Scheduling a consultation with Dr. Ali at the Pain, Spine, and Sports Institute, is your first step towards treatment and resolving any pain or emotional or physical discomfort due to a varicose vein.