Varicose Veins: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Varicose veins affect an estimated 40 million adults in the United States, and they are often the cause of leg pain and swelling. Although some believe that varicose veins are simply a cosmetic issue, this isn’t true. Varicose veins and their related symptoms can indicate a more serious underlying health issue that may require treatment. If you have varicose veins, you already know that the symptoms they cause can make you feel miserable.
Here’s everything you need to know about the signs and symptoms of varicose veins, along with your vein treatment options.
What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are often a sign of an underlying condition called venous insufficiency, also known as vein disease. Early-stage varicose veins symptoms can include achiness, swelling, and cramping. More progressed varicose veins can involve serious health conditions such as blood clots or venous ulcers. Venous ulcers are non-healing, open wounds that put you at increased risk for infection.
The type of blood clots typically related to varicose veins, Superficial Thrombophlebitis (ST), are not life-threatening, however, when left untreated they can lead to the development of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). DVT is an urgent medical issue that requires immediate treatment.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins in Legs
Varicose vein symptoms can develop when the vein valves in your legs malfunction. When this occurs, your body cannot efficiently pump blood from the lower extremities back up to the heart. As a result, your blood does not circulate properly and it begins to pool in your legs, ankles, and feet. This process can result in varicose veins, along with a variety of other painful or uncomfortable symptoms of vein disease.
Common Early-Stage Varicose Veins Symptoms
- Heavy Legs: People who live with varicose veins often report that one common symptom is heavy legs, or a feeling as if you had weights on your ankles.
- Swelling: Swelling in the legs, ankles, and/or feet is a typical sign of vein disease. If you notice your shoes feel tighter or your legs appear swollen, you should get looked at by a doctor.
- Numbness: Since varicose veins can affect proper blood circulation, this can cause a numbness in your legs and feet.
- Itching and Burning: Sometimes, this gets mistaken for dry skin, but pay attention to the area that itches. If the areas you experience these symptoms are near your visible veins, it could be linked to vein disease.
- Pain Relief When Legs are Elevated: If you have pain in your legs that tends to subside when you elevate your legs, then it could indicate vein disease.
What Causes Varicose Veins In Legs?
Although just about anyone can develop these painful, unsightly veins, there are some known risk factors. These include:
- Standing or sitting for long periods: If you have a job where you sit or stand throughout the day, you are at increased risk for varicose veins and vein disease. If you have to sit for your job, it may help to move around for short walking breaks as much as possible. When you can’t leave your workspace, try stretching or massaging your legs to increase blood flow to your legs, ankles, and feet. If you have to stand for long periods, try to find time to take a moment to sit down.
- Being overweight or obese: Carrying excess weight is never good for your health, and it can put you at an increased risk for developing vein disease. We recommend you make dietary changes and increase physical activity to manage your weight. Ask your doctor about medical weight loss programs for practical and emotional support.
- Having a family history of varicose veins: Unfortunately, your risk is higher if you have a close family member with varicose veins symptoms. In this situation, we recommend regular monitoring by a vein specialist. You should also consider early intervention for the best health outcomes.
- Getting older: Your risk of developing varicose veins increases as you age, and majority of people are diagnosed between the ages 40-80.
- Being female: Women are more likely than men to develop varicose veins.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women are often surprised by the appearance of varicose veins symptoms. These can occur due to increased blood volume, and the legs aren’t the only area affected. During pregnancy, varicose veins can also develop in the pelvic region.
Developing varicose veins isn’t inevitable, but when they do occur, it’s important to make sure you seek out a vein specialist for evaluation and treatment.
Minimally-Invasive Treatment for Varicose Veins
If your varicose vein symptoms are making you miserable, it is probably time to look into your treatment options. At USA Vein Clinics, our patients are provided with compassionate care from expert doctors committed to improving patients’ lives. If you have varicose veins in your legs, schedule an appointment with one of our vein specialists today to learn more about your treatment options.