Varicose veins are very common among the general population. These bluish, twisted, and enlarged veins are not only unsightly but can often cause a variety of symptoms. Knowing when to worry about varicose veins is important when it comes to managing stress. Varicose veins develop in the superficial veins that are closest to the skin and are most common on the extremities. The reason for their common occurrence on the lower extremities is because prolonged standing and walking increase the pressure in these superficial veins, which results in the pooling of blood; therefore, varicose veins become more prominent at the skin’s surface. Are varicose veins dangerous?
When varicose veins are small, they are usually only a cosmetic issue, but as they enlarge, they can cause a variety of symptoms, including pain, discomfort, and itching. When to worry about varicose veins? If the condition is long-standing, it can lead to changes in discoloration around the ankle or thigh and even cause an ulcer, which is nearly impossible to heal. The treatment of varicose veins involves self-care supportive measures and/or a procedure performed by a healthcare worker.
What are the symptoms of varicose veins?
- Poor cosmesis – the veins can appear twisted, bluish, enlarged, and have a rope-like texture and feel
- Itching or burning sensation
- Leg and ankle discomfort
- Pain, an odd ache, or a heavy sensation in the leg
- Heavy leg after sitting in one position for a long time
- Changes in skin color around the ankles
- Development of a painful ulcer on the inside of the ankle
Not all patients with varicose veins develop all the above symptoms. But most will complain of an itching sensation and a heavy leg after prolonged walking or being upright.
When to see a healthcare provider
When to worry about varicose veins — if you are concerned about the cosmesis of varicose veins or have developed moderate symptoms, a visit to your healthcare provider is highly recommended. However, if you have developed a painful ulcer on the inside of your ankle, then you should see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. Without formal treatment, these ulcers do not heal on their own.
What causes varicose veins?
All veins in the body have one-way valves which prevent the backflow of blood. If these valves get damaged for whatever reason, the blood does not empty out of the veins but flows backward, leading to a pooling of blood that causes enlargement of the vein. The end result is purplish discoloration on the skin. Are varicose veins dangerous? Most of the time, no, but they can be, so you should be watchful of the signs.
What are the risk factors for varicose veins?
- Advanced age. In general, varicose veins tend to be more common in older people. With advancing age, the wear and tear on the valves cause them to malfunction and blood starts to pool in the extremities. Eventually, the valves completely wear out and the vein in the leg becomes large and appears like a thick cord-like structure.
- Gender. Overall, women are more likely to develop varicose veins than men. It is believed that this difference is due to the sex hormones which cause the vein walls to become thin and relaxed. Women who take birth control pills may also be at high risk for developing varicose veins.
- Pregnancy. During pregnancy, the blood volume in the female significantly increases. This also results in enlargement of the veins in the legs. After delivery of the baby, some of the enlarged veins may regress back to their original size, but, in most cases, others persist and present as varicose veins.
- Family history. If someone in your family has varicose veins, chances are good that you may also develop them.
- Obesity. Being overweight places a great deal of pressure on the veins and can result in varicose veins.
- Prolonged standing or sitting. If you have a profession where you are up on your feet or sitting down for long hours, this can also lead to varicose veins. The reason is that if there is no muscle movement in the legs, there is no forward flow of the blood in the veins, which then results in the pooling of blood.
- Trauma. Sometimes an injury to the leg can result in damage to the superficial veins or their valves. This can lead to the development of varicosities later in life.
Are varicose veins dangerous? Once you develop varicose veins, they usually never spontaneously regress but, in most cases, will progress. Some of the complications of varicose veins include:
- Color change. Severe graying brown discoloration of the ankles can occur, which, in most cases, is permanent.
- Ulcer formation. Painful ulcers can develop from longstanding varicose veins. These ulcers are extremely difficult to treat and require months of treatment.
- Blood clots. Like with the deep veins, blood clots also develop in superficial veins, but they are not as likely to dislodge and cause breathing problems.
- Bleeding. If varicosity near the skin bursts due to trauma, the bleeding can be significant and usually requires medical attention.
How to prevent varicose veins?
The key to preventing varicose veins is to increase muscle tone and blood flow in your legs. Some of the ways to do this include the following:
- Exercise regularly as it keeps the muscles in your legs active and they will pump the blood away from the foot
- Avoid wearing tight hosiery and high heels
- If you are in one standing or sitting position for long periods, take time out every 30 minutes and move around
- Eat a low salt diet as it retains less fluid
- When at rest, keep your legs elevated on a pillow
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Wear compression stockings
When to see a healthcare provider
How to know when to worry about varicose veins? Are varicose veins dangerous? With mild varicose veins, there are usually no health risks, but if the condition worsens, it can cause several complications. Today, there are several ways to manage varicose veins, including minimally invasive laser procedures that do not involve making any cuts on the skin. The day surgery usually takes about one hour, and recovery is rapid. If you have symptoms or a complication of varicose veins, then in most cases the surgery is covered by medical insurance. The only time surgery is not covered by insurance is if you seek the procedure for cosmetic improvement.
Cano Health can help answer any questions you may have. Cano Health is well known for putting our patients first. They currently have 130 medical centers across five states. They offer full-service healthcare and are especially focused on seniors and their health issues. Cano Health accepts Medicare and Medicaid. Call them at 1-855-975-5119 to learn more.