veins are a very common problem, generally appearing as twisting,
bulging rope-like cords on the legs, anywhere from groin to ankle.
While many people have heard of varicose veins, very few truly
understand their underlying cause, and the potential they have for
developing into a serious medical issue.
Facts about varicose veins
affect an estimated 40% of women and 25% of men. Factors leading to
varicose veins include heredity, gender, pregnancy, age and other
factors. Some factors may speed up the development of this disease and
make the veins worse, including prolonged standing, obesity, hormone
levels, and physical trauma.
What are the symptoms? Will they get worse?
In addition to the visual appearance, many patients may experience one or more of the following leg symptoms:
- Pain (an aching or cramping feeling)
- Burning or tingling sensations
- Tender areas around the veins
If you experience symptoms and delay treatment, your symptoms may progress onward to more serious complications including:
- Inflammation (phlebitis)
- Blood clots (e.g., DVT)
- Ankle sores or skin ulcers
If you are experiencing any of the above, consult your physician, as treatment may be required.
How varicose veins occur
Arteries carry blood from your heart out to your extremities,
delivering oxygen deep into the tissue. Veins then return the
‘de-oxygenated’ blood (now blue) back to your heart to be re-circulated.
return this blood to the heart, your leg veins must work against
gravity. Small, one-way valves in the veins open to allow blood to flow
upward, towards the heart, and then close to prevent it from flowing
Varicose veins occur when the valves in
superficial leg veins malfunction. When this occurs, the valve may be
unable to close, allowing blood that should be moving towards the heart
to flow backward (called venous reflux). Blood collects in your lower
veins causing them to enlarge and become varicose.
Can varicose veins be prevented?
The underlying conditions described above usually make ‘curing’
varicose veins impossible, however certain measures may help relieve
discomfort from existing varicose veins and prevent others from arising:
- Exercise regularly (walking is ideal)
- Avoid standing for long periods of time
- Avoid sitting for long periods
- Control weight
the above measures do not treat the underlying cause of the disease,
varicose veins will usually enlarge and worsen over time. Legs and feet
may begin to swell and sensations of pain, heaviness, burning or
tenderness may occur. If and when this happens, consult your physician
Treatment alternatives for varicose veins
Your doctor will usually try methods that don’t involve surgery
first to relieve your symptoms. These may include preventive techniques
or the use of compression stockings. If your varicose veins do not
respond to this conservative therapy, more active treatment may be