Physical inactivity and prolonged standing are known risk factors for varicose veins. On the other hand, being physically active is a protective factor.
Veins are found all throughout the body. Their purpose is to bring deoxygenated blood from various parts of the body back to the lungs and the heart. Sometimes, the veins become enlarged, twisted, and abnormally thick, resulting in varicosities that are not only unsightly but also uncomfortable.
Why Do People Get Varicose Veins?
Some people are either born with poorly functioning veins or abnormalities in the vein walls. The malfunction, known as venous insufficiency, usually happens in the deeper leg veins. Blood that’s supposed to flow back to the heart and lungs start pooling until pressure is built up, thereby causing the veins to enlarge.
Who are at risk?
Contrary to what some may think, both men and women can get varicose veins. Apparently, an estimated 20% of adults develop varicose veins at some point in their lives.
Women, however, are more likely to have them mainly because of the hormone estrogen, which naturally relaxes the walls of the veins, making the veins more prone to leakages.
Pregnancy also heightens the risk since the combined weight of the mother and the baby increases the pressure and compresses the veins found in the pelvis. A sedentary lifestyle is also common risk factor as well as doing jobs that include long-term standing.
Signs That You Have Varicose Veins
More often than not, the tell-tale signs of varicose veins are not painful, which is why there’s no way of knowing you have them until you start noticing something different with your legs’ appearance. Here are some of the signs to look out for:
Prominent dark purple or blue veins on the thigh or calf
Legs feel itchy especially around the area where the veins protrude
Severe pain in your legs when standing
Cramping in the legs at night
Heavy feeling in the legs
Swelling in your lower legs
Skin ulcers near the ankle
Discoloration and hardening of the veins
Living With Varicose Veins
Since varicose veins are a skin condition, you can seek consultation with a dermatologist. Varicose veins are usually treated with certain exercises. Wearing compression stockings or compression leg sleeves can help improve venous return (the flow of venous blood back to the heart) and alleviate leg discomfort and fatigue.
Other management of varicose veins include:
Elevating your legs while sitting or lying down. This is a relatively simple way to improve the return of blood to your heart through gravity. Elevating your legs can also reduce the pressure in your veins and relieve discomfort.
Losing weight. If you are overweight, your pelvic veins are being compressed, hindering the venous blood in your legs from returning to the heart.
Wearing loose clothing. Tight clothing can further compress and obstruct your veins, compromising venous return.
Live an active lifestyle. Avoid prolonged standing and engage in different outdoor training and recreation activities to up your physical activity.
If these methods don’t work, your doctor might recommend a laser treatment, surgery, or sclerotherapy.
Sclerotherapy is considered the standard treatment for varicose veins. In this procedure, a fine needle is used to inject a solution directly into the veins. This solution effectively irritates the inner lining of the veins, causing them to swell and form blood clots. The veins will then shrink and fade away until they are no longer visible on the skin surface. Varicose veins treatment with sclerotherapy is only advisable for people who have tried compression stockings to no avail.
Except for strenuous activities like aerobics, all other activities are allowed immediately after treatment. Patients, however, are recommended to wear support stockings 1-2 weeks after the treatment.
Hyperpigmentation or discoloration of the treated area may occur. Typically, this is caused by the disintegration of the red blood cells in the veins that were injected with the saline solution. The discoloration usually takes about six months to go away completely.
Although sclerotherapy is generally safe, people who can no longer walk, suffer from arterial obstruction, obese, and pregnant should avoid it. If you have a history of blood clotting, your present condition must be assessed first to determine if you’re qualified. You might also be denied treatment if the dilated veins can be used for future bypass operations.
It’s best to treat the varicose veins right away as soon as you start noticing them. Ignoring the signs can lead to tissue death, which in turn can lead to amputation. If you have varicose veins, it’s best to consult a doctor right away to find out which treatment is right for you and nip the problem in the bud.