Varicose veins are swollen, twisted blood vessels that bulge just under the skin’s surface. These blue or purple bulges usually appear in the legs, feet and ankles. They can be painful or itchy. Spider veins, which may surround varicose veins, are smaller red or purple lines that appear close to the skin’s surface.
Although they can be unsightly and uncomfortable, varicose veins aren’t dangerous for most people. In some cases, severe varicose veins can lead to serious health problems, such as blood clots. A person can relieve most varicose vein symptoms at home or have veins treated with laser therapy, injections or surgery.
What is the difference between varicose veins and spider veins?
Varicose veins and spider veins are both types of venous disease, but they look different. Spider veins are smaller and thinner than varicose veins. They look like red or blue spider webs or branches of a tree, and they are close to the skin’s surface.
Spider veins aren’t usually painful. They can appear anywhere on the body, most often behind the knee, thighs, feet or on the face.
Most often, varicose veins develop on the lower half of the body, usually on calves, ankles and feet. They can also develop in the pelvic area (pelvic congestion syndrome), especially in people who have had children.
Who is likely to get varicose veins?
Anyone can develop varicose veins. As blood pressure in the vein increases, the weakened walls allow your vein to get bigger. As the vein stretches, the valves that keep blood moving in one direction in your vein can’t work like they should. Sluggish blood backs up or pools in the vein, causing it to swell, bulge and twist.
Certain factors increase chances of developing varicose veins, including:
With aging vein walls and valves don’t work as well as they once did, as a result veins lose elasticity and stiffen.
Female hormones can allow the walls of the veins to stretch. Women who are pregnant, taking birth control pill or going through menopause have a higher risk of varicose veins because of changes in hormone levels.
Family health history allows this condition, can be inherited (runs in families).
Lifestyle is a common factor in the development of the varicose veins. Standing or sitting for long periods decreases circulation. Wearing restrictive clothing or pants with tight waistbands can decrease blood flow.
Certain health conditions, such as constipation or certain tumours, increase pressure in the veins.
People who use tobacco products are more likely to develop varicose veins.
Overweight or excess weight puts pressure on blood vessels.
What is varicose veins prevention?
Even though a person may not be able to prevent varicose veins, one can reduce chances of developing them by living an active, healthy lifestyle.
Avoid long periods of standing to encourage blood flow, take regular breaks to stretch and walk around, especially if you have a job that requires you to be on your feet.
Elevating or raising your feet above your waist helps blood flow to your heart.
Maintain a healthy weight and getting rid of excess pounds reduces pressure inside your blood vessels.
Quit tobacco use since smoking damages blood vessels, decreases blood flow and causes a wide range of health problems.
Stay active to improve circulation, move frequently and avoid sitting still for prolonged periods.
Try compression stockings, support socks and pantyhose compress your veins and help blood circulate, which can prevent varicose veins from getting worse.
Wear clothes that fit properly to encourage blood flow, make sure your waistband isn’t too tight.
What is the treatment for varicose veins?
Although there are no cure for varicose veins, some treatments can reduce their appearance and relieve discomfort:
Elevate your legs above your waist several times throughout the day to increase blood flow and decrease pressure in the veins.
Wear supportive elastic stockings or socks to compress your veins and reduce discomfort. The compression stops veins from stretching and helps blood flow.
Sclerotherapy injection treatment where a healthcare provider injects a solution into your vein. The solution causes the vein walls to stick together. Eventually, your vein turns into scar tissue and fades away.
Laser therapy is a minimally invasive procedure called endovenous thermal ablation where during the treatment a specific laser is used to close off a damaged vein.
Vein surgery is a procedure during which the surgeon ties off the affected vein (ligation) to stop blood from pooling. The surgeon may remove (strip) the vein to prevent varicose veins from reappearing.
How long varicose veins last?
Most of the time, varicose veins that happen while you’re pregnant go away on their own within two or three weeks after you have your baby. For other people, varicose veins may keep coming back after any treatment.
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