Varicose Veins: Definition, Causes, and Treatments

Millennial Magazine- varicose veins

Varicose veins occur when improper blood flow causes pools of blood to collect in the veins. They are easier to see under the skin and can appear twisted or lumpy. In some cases, the veins can thicken and become inflamed.

Depending on the patient, varicose veins can range from completely harmless to incredibly painful. Additionally, they can vary in size. As they grow larger, the more harmful they can be to a patient’s wellbeing.

If you think you may be suffering from varicose veins, continue reading to learn more about the causes of this condition, prevention methods, and treatment options.

Types of Varicose Veins

The most common type of varicose veins is telangiectasias or spider veins, which are less than one millimeter in size and appear near the skin. They look like small red or purple lines or patches. About 90 percent of adults will develop spider veins at some point in their lifetime. This condition is generally harmless.

The second type of varicose veins is reticular, which are one to three millimeters long. They tend to have a bluish color and usually do not protrude from the skin. Roughly 80 percent of adults will develop reticular veins, but the condition is usually painless.

The third type of varicose veins does not have a particular name. However, this condition is generally what doctors refer to when discussing medical vein treatment. These veins are bulging, twisting, and larger than four millimeters in size. They can protrude from the skin and are surprisingly common. About 50-60 percent of adults will develop this vein disease in their lifetime.

Symptoms of Venous Disease

As the veins grow in size, the likelihood of experiencing symptoms increases. Those with varicose veins will likely experience a dull aching, itching, or burning sensation near the vein. The limb that has the vein may also be more easily fatigued or feel heavier than usual.

Other common symptoms include swelling near the site, restlessness, or leg cramping. “Symptoms other than cosmetic are a good indicator that further evaluation is required. Further evaluation is typically an ultrasound of the affected vessels and will help determine the best treatment plan,” says Dr. David Pinsinski, a board-certified physician from Artemis Vein Center.

Causes Of Varicose Veins

Contrary to popular belief, varicose veins are not a sign of a circulatory problem or disease. Varicose veins occur in patients with weakened vein valves, which has nothing to do with heart trouble, heart disease, arterial disease, or overall health.

Health Issues That Increase the Likelihood of Vein Disease

Although varicose veins are not caused by health problems, there are factors that can increase the likelihood that someone will develop venous disease. Those with a family history of the condition are more likely to experience them. This likelihood can increase with age or obesity, as both conditions make it harder for the body to pull blood from the lower limbs up to the heart.

Sex of the Patient

The sex of the patient can also affect the prevalence of varicose veins. People assigned female at birth are at higher risk of developing this disease due to hormonal changes. Women experience hormonal changes during the first trimester of pregnancy, the last 14 days of the menstrual cycle, and menopause. Hormonal birth control can also be a factor.

Injuries and Lifestyle

The last two causes of varicose veins are dependent on the patient’s injuries and lifestyle. If a person suffers trauma or injury, a vein may become damaged, inhibiting proper draining. An injury can also form blood clots, which can scar and narrow the inside of veins.

Standing for extended periods can also cause varicose veins to develop. Blood tends to pool in the lower limbs, and standing for long periods makes the body work harder against gravity to pull blood from the legs to the heart.

How To Prevent Varicose Veins

There are many things you can do to prevent the formation of varicose veins.

Avoid Long Periods of Sitting or Standing

The first thing you can do is avoid sitting or standing for long periods by getting up from your work desk once an hour or moving your feet in a circular motion while sitting. If sitting or standing for long periods is unavoidable, compression socks or stockings can prevent blood from pooling in your lower limbs. When sitting for long periods, you should also avoid crossing your legs, as this puts added pressure on your veins and can cause weakening or bulging over time.

Stay Hydrated and Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight and drinking a lot of water can also help in preventing varicose veins. Hydration helps maintain good circulation, and carrying a healthy weight can allow veins to transport blood without any added pressure.

It is also important to stay active. Walking is the best exercise to increase blood flow and prevent varicose veins. Additionally, yoga can help by toning deep calf muscles, allowing your vein valves to function better.

Prevention for Pregnant Patients

If you are currently pregnant, the expanding uterus puts pressure on the vein located on the right side of the pelvic area. By sleeping on your left side, the vein can freely move blood without being compressed.

Treatments For Varicose Veins

If you are experiencing varicose veins​ or symptoms associated with varicose veins, consult a medical professional about what treatment may be best for you. There are many types of invasive and non-invasive treatments that may work for you.

Non-Invasive Treatments

Non-invasive treatments do not require surgery. These options provide relief from some of the symptoms associated with varicose veins, but do not address the underlying cause of the disease. Some solutions include wearing compression socks or stockings or simply elevating your legs. Laser treatment is also an effective option carried out at many thread vein removal clinics across the UK. Taking anti-inflammatory medication can also help alleviate pain and ​swelling.

Eating foods high in flavonoids–a powerful antioxidant–can also help the symptoms associated with varicose veins. These foods include brightly colored berries, broccoli, celery, citrus, kale, legumes, onions, soybeans, and tea.

Invasive Treatments

Invasive treatments require ​include procedures and surgeries. These options address the underlying cause of the disease and are often covered by insurance when symptoms affect a patient’s ADLs (Activities of Daily Living). These procedures involve closing the veins that are not functioning normally. There are three main types of invasive treatments.

All three options perform the same function: they close up the diseased veins allowing the body to reroute blood flow through other healthy veins.

The difference between the three invasive treatments is how the vein is closed. The first option is endovenous ablation, which uses the heat of a laser to seal up the vein. The second option is phlebectomy, where small pieces of the vein are removed, and the third is sclerotherapy which involves injecting a sclerosant into the vein irritating the lining of the vein and causing it to swell and stick together.

Consult A Medical Professional

Many adults suffer from varicose veins. While this condition can be harmless, you may be experiencing a significant amount of pain and discomfort. If you are struggling with a vein disease, you should consult a medical professional to discuss prevention techniques and treatments in more detail.

What do you think?

Written by Hannah Whittenly

Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She graduated from the University of California-Sacramento with a degree in Journalism.

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