What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins. They can appear anywhere on the surface of the skin, but the most common area is in the legs.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
The vascular system works well when you are lying down, however when standing, the venous blood in your legs must flow against the force of gravity to return to the heart. This causes an increased pressure in the veins in your legs. Weakened vein walls result in dilated veins and malfunctioning non-closing valves. This increased pressure within the veins increases over time, causing the twisted and enlarged varicose veins.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of chronic venous disease include leg pain, heaviness, cramping, fatigue, swollen and throbbing ankles and calves, burning, tingling or itching skin, and restless legs syndrome. Varicose veins, spider veins, and skin discoloration are early signs of chronic venous disease. If left untreated, chronic venous disease can lead to more serious signs, such as skin ulceration and bleeding, phlebitis (inflammation/infection) and deep vein thrombosis (blood clots).
Not all varicose veins can be prevented, however steps can be taken to delay the development or progression of them including:
- Exercise regularly to improve leg strength and circulation (walking is ideal).
- Avoid standing for long periods of time.
- Avoid sitting for long periods of time by taking short walks every 30 minutes. If possible, try to elevate your legs.
- Control weight to avoid placing increased pressure on leg circulation.
- Avoid clothing that limits the use of the calf muscles (e.g. high heels) or restricts blood flow in the groin or calf.
The use of compression stockings as a temporary measure may help to relieve symptoms by supporting the walls of varicose veins and facilitating blood flow back to the heart, however, compression stockings are not a cure. Varicose veins are permanently damaged and typically progress over time and cannot be cured without treatment. Definitive treatment is performed utilizing minimally invasive techniques developed in the last decade.