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What Causes Varicose Veins? Symptoms, Causes, and When to Worry

Varicose veins are veins close to the skin's surface that have become enlarged and misshapen. They often appear as ropey or bulging veins that protrude from the skin and are usually dark purple or blue.

Though varicose veins are generally a cosmetic issue, they can occasionally cause pain and discomfort, especially after long periods of standing or walking. This discomfort can range from heavy, fatigued legs and itching to swelling, burning, or throbbing.

It should also be noted that varicose veins are often confused with spider veins. These are actually two different conditions and Dr. Parsons will be able to explain the differences between varicose veins and spider veins during your initial appointment.

Here’s a look at what causes varicose veins, along with common symptoms and when to seek medical care.

Common Varicose Veins Causes

While arteries carry blood away from your heart, veins carry blood to your heart. Varicose veins are weakened or damaged veins that cannot force your blood up from your legs strongly enough, allowing blood to flow back down into your legs and pool, stretching and twisting the veins.

A variety of factors can put you at risk for varicose veins.

These include:

  • Family history - Varicose veins can be a strong hereditary trait. A family history of varicose veins greatly increases the likelihood that you will develop them as well.
  • Obesity - Excess weight puts added weight on leg veins and constricts normal blood flow. This can severely hamper your body’s ability to transport blood efficiently and increase your chances of developing varicose veins.
  • Pregnancy - In addition to elevated hormone levels, pregnancy produces increased blood levels to support the fetus. This places excess strain and pressure on the leg veins and muscles, as does the growing fetus. Most varicose veins that appear during pregnancy disappear within nine to 12 months after the baby is born.
  • Older age - As you age, the walls of your veins weaken and relax, making them more susceptible to expansion and contortion. This allows varicose veins to form more easily.

There is also growing evidence that suggests estrogen impacts varicose veins, placing women in general at further risk for them. In addition, prolonged standing, walking, or sitting with crossed legs can exacerbate varicose veins, making many industries risk factors for many individuals.

Now that we know what causes varicose veins, how to know if you have them?

Common Varicose Veins Symptoms

Here are some common symptoms to watch out for:

  • Burning, throbbing, muscle cramping and swelling in your lower legs
  • Worsened pain after sitting or standing for a long time
  • Itching around one or more of your veins
  • Bleeding from varicose veins
  • A painful cord in the vein with red discoloration of the skin
  • Color changes, hardening of the vein, inflammation of the skin or skin ulcers near your ankle, which can mean you have a serious form of vascular disease that requires medical attention.

How to Get Rid of Varicose Veins?

There are many ways to get rid of varicose veins, from lifestyle changes to minimally invasive medical procedures and treatment.

The best type of treatment for you will depend on the severity of your condition. This is why it’s important to seek medical advice early and get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

What could happen if I do not seek any treatment?

Having leaky valves in your veins progressively leads to venous hypertension. If this becomes severe it can lead to:

  • Significant leg swelling
  • Skin color changes
  • Bleeding
  • Thrombophlebitis (Inflamed Veins)
  • Possible ulceration
pictures of various vein conditions

Varicose Veins

image of varicose veins

Spider Veins

image of spider veins

How to Prevent Varicose Veins

Unfortunately, varicose veins cannot be reversed, and, depending on your risk factors—such as family history or gender—you may be unable to prevent them completely. However, you can take various measures to reduce their prominence, mitigate any discomfort, and perhaps even minimize their progression.

  • Compression stockings put consistent, even pressure on your legs to encourage blood flow and discourage pooling in the veins. Avoid tight clothes and high heels as much as possible.
  • Elevation helps reduce pressure on the veins. Try to elevate your legs when sitting or lying down whenever possible.
  • Try not to cross your legs or ankles while sitting. Crossing your legs constricts blood flow and puts unnecessary pressure on your veins.
  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods. Take periodic breaks from the activity you do most—such as using your lunch break to either take a quick walk or sit down and rest—to allow your veins to recover.
  • Regular exercise promotes healthy, regular blood flow. It can also help with weight management, another way to reduce the discomfort of varicose veins. Carrying extra pounds puts excess pressure on your legs, leg muscles, and veins, exacerbating any varicose veins you may already have and making you more prone to developing more

Varicose Vein Treatment, Before/After

before and after of varicose vein treatment

When to Worry about Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins can be stubborn to manage and unsightly. Some remedies, such as those mentioned above, can help minimize pain and discomfort and keep you moving.

On occasion, varicose veins can preclude blood clots or Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). This is of particular concern if you experience redness, leg swelling, or a hard lump at the site of a vein.

Varicose vein risk factors that increase your chance of developing a blood clot include:

  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Birth control pills
  • Obesity
  • Surgery
  • Prolonged bed rest

If you are concerned about the appearance or severity of your varicose veins, CardioVascular Health Clinic can help. The team at Cardiovascular Health Clinic specializes in vein disorders and diseases and can determine if you are at an elevated risk for complications from your varicose veins. We also offer a wide array of medical options for treating your varicose veins. Call us today at (405) 701-9880 or fill out the contact form below.

What should I expect during my exam?

During your initial meeting with Dr. Parsons, he will perform a physical exam of your legs to:

  • Look for swelling, changes in skin color, or sores.
  • Check blood flow in the veins
  • Rule out other problems with the legs (such as a blood clot)

The first line of treatment is often non-operative and is typically required by your insurance company.  There are a number of self-care treatment options Dr. Parsons may suggest in order to fulfill the requirements of your insurance plan, such as:

  • Wear compression stockings to decrease swelling.
  • DO NOT sit or stand for long periods. Even moving your legs slightly helps keep the blood flowing.
  • Raise your legs above your heart 3 to 4 times a day for 15 minutes at a time.
  • Care for wounds if you have any open sores or infections.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Get more exercise. This can help with weight management and help move blood up your legs. Walking or swimming are good options.

During your initial consultation, Dr. Parsons will ask many questions and have his staff contact your insurance company for pre-authorization. This will help create your treatment plan and the expectations for a course of action for treatment.

Advanced IR Solutions – Dr. Blake Parsons

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