Varicose veins are often thought of as a strictly aesthetic problem that could make you feel self-conscious when you’re at the beach or pool; however, vein disease can sometimes lead to serious health issues. Not only can treatment diminish unattractive, bulging veins, but it can improve blood circulation and alleviate debilitating symptoms.
You might find yourself wondering, “are varicose veins related to cardiovascular issues?” The answer is yes, in some cases. Many people are unaware of the fact that if left untreated, varicose veins can sometimes cause high blood pressure.
What Is a Varicose Vein?
A varicose vein is a vessel that carries blood to the heart, and it protrudes through the skin. This gnarled, enlarged vein stands out among your other blood vessels. Although a varicose vein is possible in any vein, most of the time, the veins that become varicose are the ones in your legs and feet because of the pressure you put on them when you stand or walk.
Varicose Vein Symptoms
Some people never experience any symptoms of varicose veins besides their physically unappealing appearance. They tend to look darker than the other veins, possibly dark purple or blue. The veins look twisted, bulging, or larger than your other veins. Varicose veins can also cause the following symptoms:
- Achy or heavy feeling in your legs
- Burning, throbbing, itching, or swelling
- Pain that worsens when standing or sitting for long periods of time
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Veins are responsible for carrying blood from other places of your body to your heart in order for it to recirculate. Unfortunately, veins in the lower portion of your body must fight gravity to do so, which makes them work harder. As a result of the veins working hard, the valves in them become damaged or weaken, causing blood to back up. When it does so, the blood pools into your veins, which causes them to swell and become more prominent. In some cases, they twist in order to squeeze into their confined space.
As you age, your veins naturally lose their elasticity, causing them to stretch and weaken. As they become weaker, they’re more prone to becoming a varicose vein. Women tend to develop varicose veins more than men, especially during pregnancy and menopause. The hormone changes before menstruation increase a woman’s risk as well. Other risk factors include the following:
- Family history
- Living a sedentary life
- Having an occupation where you stand for long periods of time
Do Varicose Veins Cause Other Health Risks?
Varicose veins are sometimes an indication of a more serious problem such as supraventricular tachycardia, a leg ulcer, or lipodermatosclerosis. Supraventricular tachycardia is a rapid heart rhythm disorder that starts in the upper region of the heart. Due to abnormal electrical impulses in the heart, the rate it beats increases, leading to the heart to working hard because it doesn’t fill up before it contracts. The veins and arteries also work harder as a result, increasing a person’s risk of developing varicose veins.
Leg ulcers occur in your legs as a result of high pressure in the veins when you stand. The pressure damages the skin, which in return, causes an ulcer to form. The connection between lipodermatosclerosis and varicose veins isn’t known as of yet, but this condition causes swelling in the legs that appear to contribute to the onset of varicose veins.
Varicose Veins and Venous Hypertension
A connection between varicose veins and high blood pressure does exist for some people, but researchers aren’t quite sure why at this point.
The entire cardiovascular system must function together to pump blood throughout your body. When one portion of the cardiovascular system has to work hard, it causes the entire system to have to compensate. For instance, one study indicates a relationship between arterial disease and varicose veins and their connection with high blood pressure.
Sometimes, a form of hypertension (high blood pressure) occurs in the veins, known as venous hypertension. The continuous high pressure in the veins stresses and weakens them, allowing for varicose veins to form. Keep in mind, the repetitive stress from venous hypertension damages the veins permanently and possibly leads to more serious problems.
When veins are unable to send blood back to your heart efficiently, it’s known as venous insufficiency. Varicose veins and weakness of the veins in the legs can contribute to this condition. The condition causes pressure to build up in the legs, which can cause venous hypertension. Venous hypertension can sometimes lead to changes in skin color, leg ulcers, or swelling in the lower portion of the legs or ankles.
Risk Factors of Varicose Veins and Hypertension
Varicose veins and high blood pressure may occur simultaneously in people because they both share some of the same risk factors. For example, as you age, you’re more at risk for both hypertension and varicose veins. Men tend to develop hypertension around the age of 45 while women tend to develop it after the age of 65. Additionally, the aging process places wear and tear on the valves in the veins, making varicose veins more likely as you age.
Being overweight or obese puts you at an increased risk for both hypertension and varicose veins. The amount you weigh affects the amount of blood you have, and when you have more blood, it takes more pressure to circulate it throughout your cardiovascular system. If you’re overweight, you’re placing extra weight on your veins in your legs, which adds to your risk of developing varicose veins.
Living a sedentary lifestyle puts you at a greater risk of numerous health conditions including both hypertension and varicose veins. When you sit for long periods of time, your blood doesn’t flow as well, so you increase your risk of developing varicose veins. People who are less physically active tend to have higher heart rates, which means your heart must work harder. You’re also at a greater risk of obesity when you lead an inactive lifestyle, further increasing your risk of hypertension.
The likelihood of a woman developing varicose veins is higher than that of a man’s due to hormone changes like pregnancy, birth control pills, and menopause. Although men are at a greater risk of developing hypertension, the same hormonal fluctuations that increase a woman’s risk of developing varicose veins are the same ones that increase a woman’s chance of hypertension.
Treatment for Varicose Veins
Treatment for varicose veins can have an impact on your blood pressure if you have venous insufficiency, but in most cases, varicose veins and high blood pressure require separate treatments.
Endovenous Laser Therapy
Endovenous laser therapy (EVLT) is a procedure that uses a very thin laser with the assistance of ultrasound technology. A venous specialist creates a small puncture and inserts the probe – which emits heat energy. As the laser heats the unhealthy vessel, it causes the walls of it to shrink and eventually collapse. As a result of the vein collapsing, it closes and disintegrates over time. After it collapses, blood reroutes to the healthy veins only.
The laser procedure is much safer than its invasive alternatives like vein stripping or other outdated treatments for varicose veins. With the ultrasound technology and the precision and expertise of a venous specialist, surrounding tissue is unaffected and you find relief from the unappealing look of the vein as well as the symptoms that accompany it.
Sclerotherapy is a procedure that utilizes an injectable saline solution that irritates your vein, causing it to swell and close. It eventually turns to scar tissue and disappears because the surrounding tissue absorbs it. It only successfully treats small varicose veins. It causes very minimal pain, so an anesthetic is unnecessary. It doesn’t require any downtime and takes less than 30 minutes to administer.
Compression stockings place pressure on the area where a varicose vein is. In addition to reducing swelling, they compress your blood vessels in order to help the valves in the vein function properly, so the blood flows to the heart without pooling in the veins. A vein specialist prescribes them as a treatment for varicose veins and after you undergo a varicose vein treatment.
It’s important to seek the assistance of a professional trained in identifying venous issues and who is able to size the compression stockings. An improperly fitting stocking won’t help the problem. Those who have varicose veins that occur because of a serious medical condition require a stocking with a greater amount of pressure, which only can be determined by an expert in venous care.
A vascular specialist realizes the importance of correcting issues that contribute to your varicose vein or worsen it such as your weight. You receive education on how you can improve your condition based on your current level of health and medical history.
With expert, compassionate care and the latest, minimally invasive procedures, treating a varicose vein is both convenient and virtually painless. USA Vein Clinics has the expertise and equipment to treat your varicose veins and identify possible underlying causes if there’s a sign of a more serious issue. Through ultrasound technology, the vein specialist can determine if your varicose veins and high blood pressure are related. Schedule an appointment at one of USA Vein Clinics’ 61 offices throughout the United States by calling 888-768-3467. Visit our website for more information regarding treatment services, doctors, and locations! www.usaveinclinics.com