VARICOSE VEINS

Though most of us recognize varicose veins, not everyone understands the difference between varicose veins and spider veins or whether they are dangerous.

Varicose veins usually occur on the legs. They appear as swollen veins, bulging off of the surface of the skin. Varicose veins can be red, purple, or bluish in color. Typically, varicose veins are accompanied by aching, heavy, and uncomfortable legs. You may also experience swelling in the calves and ankles, burning, or throbbing.

Varicose Veins

WHAT CAUSES VARICOSE VEINS?

Varicose veins can be caused by a number of situations, including:

  • Pregnancy (hormone changes and increased chances of blood clotting)

  • Birth control medications

  • Hormone changes or therapy

  • Poor circulation due to lack of exercise

  • Weakened vein valves from high pressure due to long periods of sitting or standing

  • Obesity

  • Trauma to the legs

  • Weakened valves due to aging

  • Sun damage

Genetics, family history, and personal health history all play a role in contributing to varicose veins as well. Factors to be considered include:

  • Gender (females often have spider veins more frequently than males)

  • Age (most sufferers are over age 50)

  • Pregnancy (increases risk of blood clots in the legs)

  • Obesity

  • Family history of Chronic Venous Insufficiency

  • Personal history of blood clots

  • Tobacco use (smokers are more likely to get spider veins than non-smokers)

  • High blood pressure

Varicose Veins

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VARICOSE VEINS AND SPIDER VEINS?

Both conditions can be caused by the same situation, but “spider veins” refer to veins that are bluish purple or red and significantly smaller than varicose veins. Varicose veins are thick, swollen veins that bulge from the surface of the skin.  People with spider veins rarely have secondary symptoms, pain or complications from them, while varicose veins often cause a feeling of heaviness in the legs, swelling pain, and cramps.

ARE VARICOSE VEINS DANGEROUS?

Some people with varicose veins don’t experience any secondary symptoms or complications, and simply complain of their unsightly appearance. On the other hand, you should see a doctor if your legs are often uncomfortable, swollen, or painful.  Other reasons to be concerned include if the skin over the veins is sore to the touch, dry, irritated, or itching.

Varicose Veins
Varicose Veins

HOW CAN VARICOSE VEINS BE TREATED?

Treatment depends on the severity of your varicose veins, any complications, and medical history. Simple treatments include compression therapy, such as wearing specialized socks or stockings, exercise, elevation, and altering certain life patterns that contribute to varicose veins.  On the other hand, medical intervention can be sought to remove or lessen the appearance of your varicose veins. Injectable sealants or medications, laser therapy, ambulatory phlebectomy, and radiofrequency ablation are all forms of medical treatment for varicose veins and other types of venous issues.

HOW CAN I PREVENT VARICOSE VEINS?

  • Avoid standing or sitting for long periods without taking a break.
  • When sitting, avoid crossing your legs.
  • Keep your legs raised when sitting, resting, or sleeping.
  • When you can, raising your legs above the level of your heart will help.
  • Do physical activities to get your legs moving and improve muscle tone. This helps blood move through your veins.
  • If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight can help reduce your varicose vein symptoms. This will increase blood flow and ease the pressure on your veins.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothes, especially those that are tight around your waist, groin (upper thighs), and legs. Tight clothes can make varicose veins worse.
  • Avoid wearing high heels for long periods.
  • Wear compression stockings if your doctor recommends them. These stockings create gentle pressure up the leg. This pressure keeps blood from pooling in the veins and decreases the swelling in the legs.
Varicose Veins

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