What Are Varicose Veins?
When someone’s veins are enlarged, swollen, or overfilled with blood, they are called varicose veins. A varicose vein is typically bluish or dark purple in color and may look lumpy or twisted. They are often raised above other parts of the skin and can be painful.
Varicose veins occur fairly commonly, especially in women. It is considered that approximately one in four adults in the U.S. has a problem with varicose veins. Any vein close to the skin’s surface can become varicose. The condition usually develops on the legs and, most often, on the lower legs. This is because walking and standing increase the pressure in the lower body veins, and sitting for long periods decreases blood flow.
Some consider varicose veins and spider veins to be cosmetic issues. However, others may feel itching around varicose veins, pain after standing or sitting for a long time, or swelling and muscle cramping.
Although varicose veins are not considered a severe medical issue, they may lead to other more serious problems. For example, they can lead to blood clots, venous ulcers or sores, chronic inflammation, and in severe cases, could even rupture.
That’s why it’s essential to visit your doctor to get your varicose veins diagnosed. They may be able to treat varicose veins and help you reduce the chances of new ones from developing.
What Can Cause Varicose Veins?
Healthy veins have one-way valves that push the blood smoothly in one direction – to the heart. At the same time, they prevent the blood from flowing backward. But, when these valves weaken and stop working correctly, a certain amount of blood starts to flow backward and accumulates in these veins, causing them to become enlarged and swollen.
Even though anyone can develop varicose veins, certain conditions, such as old age, pregnancy, or being overweight, can increase that chance.
Who Is at Risk of Developing Varicose Veins?
Considering how varicose veins develop, specific individuals are more likely to suffer from this condition. These individuals include:
As a person ages, it is a fair assumption to expect vein walls won’t work as well as they used to and will stiffen and lose elasticity over time.
Being overweight puts extra pressure on an individual’s veins. Additionally, having high body fat and low muscle mass decreases the support for the veins, which can result in the development of varicose veins.
People With a Family History of Varicose Veins
A family history of varicose veins or deep vein thrombosis can also contribute to this condition. Varicose veins may run in families, so an individual can develop this condition even if they maintain a healthy weight.
People Who Are on Their Feet for Extended Periods
People with an inactive lifestyle or who have to stand for long periods are at a greater risk of developing this condition.
Changes in hormone levels during pregnancy or even menopause can affect vein walls. In other words, female hormones tend to allow the vein walls to stretch, making the valves more prone to leaking. Additionally, as a woman’s uterus grows during pregnancy, it can put more pressure on the leg veins.
Other Contributing Factors
In addition to the above, certain lifestyle choices and other health problems can also increase the risk of varicose veins. Wearing pants with tight waistbands, for instance, can decrease blood flow. Smoking damages the blood vessels and can cause weak or damaged valves, which lead to varicose veins. Sadly, even tumors can increase blood pressure and weaken valves inside the veins.
Are Varicose and Spider Veins the Same?
Both varicose veins and spider veins are types of venous disease. However, the two conditions are different. Spider veins are thinner, while varicose veins are typically enlarged veins.
Spider veins look like spider webs or tree branches; they are red or blue and close to the skin’s surface. Additionally, spider veins aren’t painful in most cases and can appear anywhere on the body, while varicose veins usually appear on legs and feet.
Can a Podiatrist Help With Varicose Veins?
To diagnose varicose veins, doctors will often perform a physical exam or, in some cases, order additional tests that may include an ultrasound scan. They may ask you how active you are, what symptoms of varicose veins you have, or whether someone in your family suffers from the same condition.
Most often, varicose veins don’t require treatment. If the treatment for varicose veins is required, your doctor may first recommend something you can do by yourself. These treatments may include:
- Rising your feet above the level of your heart several times a day for a certain amount of time.
- Wearing compression stockings/socks.
- Making certain lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly, keeping a healthy weight, and elevating your feet when sitting.
These treatments are meant to relieve varicose vein symptoms and prevent more serious complications. However, additional treatments for severe varicose veins can be performed if the doctor deems them necessary.
Other Varicose Vein Treatments
Your doctor may recommend more invasive treatment options, like sclerotherapy, thermal ablation or laser therapy, and vein ligation or stripping for severe cases. While some interventions are minimal, others, like varicose vein surgery, may involve more pain and a longer recovery time.
Like other medical procedures, these can also cause potential side effects like bruising, changes in skin color, nerve damage, blood clot, or allergic reactions. Patients may also need to wear compression stockings during recovery time.
More Varicose Vein Questions? Contact Dr. Ivan Silva Today!
A podiatrist or chiropodist, or a “foot specialist” as more commonly termed, is accustomed to treating varicose veins. This focused branch of medicine helps diagnose, treat, and prevent various foot and lower leg disorders caused by disease or injury.
If you have more questions about varicose veins, Dr. Ivan Silva, a podiatrist in Santo Domingo, could help. He is a podiatric surgeon having more than 25 years of experience. He is comfortable treating varicose veins and helping patients prevent them from forming or worsening.
Discover more about the offered services and contact Dr. Ivan Silva to start your recovery process today!