How does One Get Varicose Veins?
Last updated date: 16-Jul-2021
7 mins read
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins happen when your veins become enlarged, dilated, and engorged with blood. Typically, varicose veins appear raised and swollen, and have a red or bluish-purple color. Often, they are painful.
The condition is extremely common, especially in women. About 25 per cent of all adult individuals have varicose veins and in most cases, varicose veins appear on the lower legs. This is because standing or walking increases the pressure on the veins in your leg.
For most people, varicose veins (or spider veins) are a purely cosmetic issue. However, varicose veins may also cause discomfort or aching. Varicose veins do not always need treatment for medical reasons. However, if you find that the veins are causing pain, you may consult a doctor.
Read on to find out about how one gets varicose veins along with other details about the condition.
What are the types of varicose veins?
There are two primary types of varicose veins.
First, there are varicose veins, which may or may not be painful.
Second, you may experience spider veins. Spider veins are slighter (smaller) than varicose veins but also appear purple or blue in colour. Usually, they happen in the legs but may also be present in the face.
What are the symptoms of varicose veins?
In most cases of varicose veins, there is no pain or ache. The main symptoms of varicose veins include
- Veins looking twisted or swollen or larger
- Veins become blue or purple or dark purple.
However, there are several other symptoms that may also be caused by varicose veins.
- Swollen ankles
- A pain or ache in your legs or other places where varicose veins occur.
- Legs feel heavier. This may especially happen after exercise or at night.
- Occurrence of spider veins (telangiectasia) in your affected area.
- Skin in the affected area becomes dry, itchy, or red (venous eczema).
- Several people who have varicose veins may also have restless leg syndrome.
- In severe cases, the veins can bleed significantly and ulcers can form.
If you experience pain in your affected area, this pain may be in the form of
- A heavy feeling in your legs.
- Itching around your affected veins.
- Skin discoloration around your affected veins.
- Greater pain after you have been sitting or standing for a long time.
When to see a doctor for the treatment of varicose veins?
There are various home treatments that you can use to prevent varicose veins from worsening or to help ease the discomfort.
However, if you feel that the self-care measures are not working or you feel uncomfortable about your varicose veins, you should seek a doctor for treatment.
What causes varicose veins?
Varicose veins can be caused by damaged or weak valves. Veins return the blood from your body to your heart. There are small (tiny) valves in your veins that open when the blood flows towards your heart, and they close when the blood flows in the opposite direction.
This helps to ensure that the blood keeps flowing in the correct direction. However, these valves in your veins sometimes become damaged or weak. When these valves do not function properly, then the blood can collect in your veins.
This causes the veins to become swollen or enlarged or twisted.
The veins in the legs must work against gravity to return the blood. The muscle contractions in your legs as you walk or stand helps to return this blood by acting as a pump. Varicose veins happen most often in the legs because it is harder for the veins in your legs to pump the blood back to the heart.
What are the risk factors of varicose veins?
Many factors can increase the risk of varicose veins occurring in your legs or other parts of your body:
- Posture. Standing or sitting in one place for long periods of time can increase the risk of varicose veins. This is because your blood flow will be inhibited due to your posture.
- Age. Further, the chances of having varicose veins increase with age. This is because aging causes damage to the valves in your veins. As you grow old, it becomes more difficult for your veins to ensure proper flow of blood.
- Sex. Women are more prone to have varicose veins compared to men due to hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, pre-menstruation, or menopause. Hormone treatments like birth control pills, may also increase the risk of varicose veins.
- Obesity. Being overweight places greater pressure on your veins, increasing your chances of developing varicose veins.
- Family history. There is a greater likelihood of you developing varicose veins if other members of your family also have the condition.
What is the treatment for varicose veins?
There are many kinds of treatments available for varicose veins. Treatments include home care as well as medical procedures.
- Self-care: It is possible to treat varicose veins at home and prevent them from getting worse. You should start by doing regular exercises. If you’re obese, then losing weight will also help treat the condition. Avoid standing or sitting in one place for extended periods of time. This will help to ensure the optimal flow of blood through your body. Do not wear tight clothes since this inhibits the flow of blood. Lastly, if you’re experiencing varicose veins in your legs, then spend some time with your legs in an elevated position.
- Compression stockings: Often, wearing compression stockings all day is the first approach to try before taking any other treatments. Compression stockings steadily squeeze the legs and help your veins and leg muscles move blood more proficiently. The amount of compression varies by brand and type. You can buy them at most medical supply stores and pharmacies. Prescription-strength stockings are also available .
- Foam sclerotherapy of large veins: Injection with a foam solution on a large vein can also be a possible treatment to close and seal a vein.
- Laser treatment: Doctors are currently using new technology in laser treatments to close off spider veins and smaller varicose veins. In laser treatment, strong bursts of light are sent onto the vein. No needles incisions or are used.
- Catheter-assisted procedures using laser energy or radiofrequency: In such treatments, your physician inserts a catheter (thin tube) into an distended (enlarged) vein and heats up the tip of the catheter using either laser energy or radiofrequency. As this catheter is pulled out, the heat at the tip destroys the vein by triggering it to collapse and seal shut. This type of procedure is the most preferred treatment for larger varicose veins.
- High ligation and vein stripping: The procedure is an outpatient procedure for many people. It involves tying a vein off before it joins a deep vein and removing it by small incisions. Removing the vein will not affect circulation in the leg adversely as the veins deeper in our leg take care of larger volumes of blood.
- Ambulatory phlebectomy: In this procedure, the smaller varicose veins are removed by your doctor through a series of tiny skin cuts (punctures). The outpatient procedure involves only parts of the leg that are being pricked are numbed. Usually, scarring is minimal.
- Endoscopic vein surgery. If other techniques fail, you may need endoscopic vein surgery only in an advanced stage which involve leg ulcers. Your physician may use a thin video camera inserted in your leg to check and close varicose veins and then remove the veins through small cuts (incisions). This procedure is also performed on an outpatient basis.
What are the complications from varicose veins?
There are certain complications, though rare, that can arise from varicose veins.
Bleeding. Sometimes varicose veins may burst and cause bleeding. Even though it may be minor, you should get it checked by a doctor.
Ulcers: You may develop ulcers on your skin near the varicose veins. This also needs medical attention.
Blood clots: There may be a blood clot, or your leg may start swelling. Visit a doctor if you experience such blood clots.
How to prevent varicose veins?
There are many things you can do to prevent varicose veins or prevent them from spreading further.
- It mainly involves making your blood circulation better. To prevent varicose veins, you should
- Elevate your legs for certain periods of time
- Eat a low-salt and high-fibre diet
- Change sitting or standing position frequently
- Do not wear tight clothes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. How will the doctor diagnose my varicose veins?
Your doctor may usually conduct a physical exam to see whether varicose veins are visible or if there is swelling. The doctor may also ask you to inform about any pain or aching in your legs.
Q. Does wearing compression stockings affect my condition?
Yes, wearing compression stockings is good for you to prevent and treat varicose veins at home. They will help to increase the blood circulation in your legs. There are several types of compression stockings available in the market.
Q. Do I need to be hospitalized for sclerotherapy?
No, you do not need to undergo hospitalization for the treatment of varicose veins with sclerotherapy. It can be performed in your doctor’s office or an out-patient room.
Varicose veins usually occur in the legs and result in cosmetic issues. However, sometimes they may cause pain or aching, or other complications. In such cases, you should see a doctor immediately.