If you suffer from varicose veins, you may wonder what causes them to develop in the first place. Varicose veins are enlarged, bulging, unsightly veins that are often accompanied by pain or discomfort. They usually appear on the legs, ankles, and feet, but can also affect other areas of the body.
Common varicose vein symptoms include:
- Heaviness or achiness in the legs
- Leg cramps (especially at night)
- Skin discoloration
To understand what causes varicose veins in legs and how to keep your condition from getting worse, keep reading.
What Causes Varicose Veins in Legs?
Varicose veins are a sign of underlying vein disease, also known as venous insufficiency. Vein disease occurs when your vein valves are continuously under strain and begin to malfunction. This makes it challenging for your heart to efficiently pump blood against gravity. Instead, blood begins to pool in your lower extremities, such as your legs, ankles, and feet.
This process can lead to varicose veins and other venous conditions like spider veins and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). Although varicose veins can appear in other areas of the body, the legs are the most common site affected.
Common symptoms of vein disease include:
- Swelling in the legs and ankles
- Tired, aching legs
- Burning in the calf or thigh
- Leg pain that feels better when you walk or raise your legs
- Itchy, dry skin
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Difficulty standing for long periods
- Non-healing wounds on your legs
What Are Common Risk Factors for Varicose Veins?
While you are exploring what causes varicose veins, you may also want to consider your individual risk factors. The good news is that certain risk factors can sometimes be controlled with lifestyle changes. The bad news is that other risk factors are beyond your control.
Risk factors for varicose veins include:
Genetics: Family medical history is a key component. If you have a parent or close relative with varicose veins, you are more likely to develop them. If both of your parents have varicose veins, your risk further increases.
Age: As with many health conditions, your risk for developing varicose veins increases as you get older. Although varicose veins are more likely to appear after age 50, there are plenty of younger people affected.
Sex: Women are four times more likely to develop varicose veins. This may be in part due to pregnancy being another risk factor.
Pregnancy: Due to increased blood flow and an influx of hormones, pregnant women are more likely than others to be affected.
Prolonged sitting or standing: Do you have a job where you are on your feet or sitting in a chair for hours each day? If so, you are at higher risk for developing vein disease.
Excess weight: If you are obese or overweight, you are more likely to experience symptoms of varicose veins. This is because excess weight puts additional strain on your veins, causing damage.
Inactivity: Along with contributing to weight gain, inactivity can affect your blood circulation and lead to problems with your veins.
Smoking: This unhealthy habit can weaken veins and reduce blood flow. It can also contribute to a range of serious health conditions like heart and lung disease.
High blood pressure: Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can result in strained vein valves. This can lead to the development of varicose veins.
How Can You Keep Varicose Veins From Getting Worse?
As mentioned above, certain lifestyles and health factors can increase your risks of developing vein disease. Now, you may be wondering what causes varicose veins to get worse. Many of the same factors that cause varicose veins can also result in worsening symptoms. While varicose veins don’t go away on their own, there are some things you can do to maintain status quo.
- Manage your weight
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid prolonged periods of standing or sitting
- Quit smoking
- Control your blood pressure
- Elevate your legs when possible
- Ask your doctor about wearing compression socks
What Else Can You Do About Varicose Veins?
The reality is that you can’t always control the development or worsening of varicose veins and their symptoms. This is where the relief of vein treatment comes in. At USA Vein Clinics, we offer a variety of effective vein treatment options. Our experts aim to reduce varicose vein symptoms and improve your overall quality of life.
All of our treatments are minimally-invasive, office-based procedures. Although recommended approaches vary, they all work by sealing off diseased veins and diverting blood flow to the surrounding ones.
Most treatments take only 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the number of veins involved. Afterward, you can leave immediately and return to normal activities. You may be advised to wear compression stockings for a couple of days to several weeks.
Our minimally-invasive vein treatment techniques include:
Endovenous Laser Therapy (EVLT)
Endovenous Laser Therapy is considered the gold standard for treating varicose veins and vein disease symptoms. During the EVLT procedure, your doctor inserts a thin laser fiber into the affected vein while using ultrasound for guidance. Then, they use lasers to heat up the fiber and close off the malfunctioning vein.
ClariVein®, or mechanochemical ablation, is a catheter-based treatment. The unique catheter involved has a rotating tip at one end. It simultaneously uses mechanical and chemical methods to treat damaged veins.
Visual Sclerotherapy Injections
Small varicose or spider veins can be treated with Visual Sclerotherapy. With this method, a sclerosant solution is injected through a tiny needle into the affected vein. The solution intentionally irritates the inside of the vein, causing it to swell and seal shut.
Varithena Vein Treatment
This foam-based treatment is usually used to treat vein conditions in the Great Saphenous Vein (GSV) and surrounding areas. During this procedure, ultrasound is used to guide a small needle or catheter into the diseased vein. Then, Varithena foam is injected, which ultimately causes the vein to collapse.
Ultrasound-Guided Sclerotherapy uses live ultrasound imaging to treat varicose veins near the skin’s surface. During the procedure, a sclerosant solution is injected, which irritates and closes off affected veins.
Varicose Vein Treatment at USA Vein Clinics
Are you tired of living with pain, heaviness, itching, burning, and swelling associated with varicose veins on legs? If so, it may be time to intervene. Fortunately, our vein treatment specialists are ready and available to help. At USA Vein Clinics, we are passionate about developing an individualized plan of care for each of our patients.
No matter what causes varicose veins or makes them worse, we know how much they can make you suffer. We look forward to helping you find some much-deserved relief from painful and uncomfortable varicose vein symptoms!