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Varicose Veins

What are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are a very common condition in the United States and affect approximately 15 percent of men and approximately 25 percent of women.

Varicose veins are the blue or purplish enlarged veins you typically see bulging out of one's leg. The word "varicose" is derived from the Latin root word "varix," which is translated in English as "twisted." Any vein in your body may become varicose, however, its important to note that this condition or varicose veins exists most often in the legs and feet. Varicose veins occur in the legs and lower extremities because standing and walking increases the pressure in the veins in the lower half of your body.

Is it only a cosmetic concern? For many men and women, varicose veins and spider veins (these are the smaller and more common variation of varicose veins) makes them feel less attractive. However, it's important to note that for others, varicose veins cause aching pain and discomfort. This condition may lead to serious problems if not treated. Moreover, varicose veins may also serve as an indication that the individual is at a higher risk of other disorders of the circulatory system.

As with many other health related issues, self-help measures work well for prevention; compression stockings and changing certain aspects in one's lifestyle.

Pregnancy and Varicose Veins

Pregnant women sometimes complain of developing varicose veins. This is true.  Pregnancy increases the volume of blood in a woman’s body, however, it decreases the flow of blood from the legs to the pelvis.  This change in circulation is designed to support the growing baby, but it can produce an unfortunate side effects such as enlarged veins in the legs.  Varicose veins may appear for the first time during pregnancy.  It has been observed that the varicose veins may worsen during late pregnancy because the uterus exerts greater pressure on the veins in your legs.

Hemorrhoids and Varicose Veins?

Some are very surprised to learn that hemorrhoids are actually varicose veins located in and around the anus.  Moreover, this condition is very common in the United States.  By age 50, about half of adults have had to deal with the itching, bleeding and pain that often signal the presence of hemorrhoids.

Hemorrhoids, also known as “piles”, are swollen veins in your anus and rectum. The causes include straining during a bowel movement or the increased pressure during pregnancy.

Effective medications and procedures are readily available to treat hemorrhoids.  Fortunately, in many cases hemorrhoids may require only lifestyle changes.

Symptoms

A number of people do not experience any discomfort with varicose veins, however, certain people do.  For those that do experience discomfort, below are some of the symptoms

  • Achiness or heavy feeling in one's legs; burning, throbbing, muscle cramping and swelling in the lower legs.
  • Itching around one or more of your veins in the legs.
  • Skin ulcers near your ankle, which represent a severe form of vascular disease and require immediate attention.

If you have varicose veins, typically prolonged sitting or standing tends to make your legs feel worse. The varicose veins are easy to spot because they are dark purple or blue in color and sometimes appear twisted and bulging. The most common spot they appear is on the inside of the leg or on the backs of calves. But don’t let that fool you, they can form anywhere on your legs, from your groin to your ankle.

Risk Factors that Increase your Chances of Developing Varicose Veins

  • Standing for long periods of time. Blood doesn't flow as well if you're in the same position for long periods of time because your muscles are not contracting to push the blood back to the heart.
  • Obesity. Extra weight puts more pressure on your veins.
  • Age. The normal processing of aging causes wear and tear on the valves in your veins which regulate blood flow. The wear and tear may causes the valves to malfunction.
  • Sex. Women have a higher chance than men are to develop varicose veins and spider veins. This is attributed to hormonal changes during pregnancy, and also premenstruation or menopause may be a factor. Some researchers have found that female hormones may relax vein walls. Moreover, the use of hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills may increase the risk of varicose veins.
  • Genetics. Check to see whether your family members have varicose veins, heredity plays a big role.

Screening and diagnosis by a Physician

To locate a physician in your area that specializes in varicose vein and spider vein treatment, please click here.  Prior to making a diagnosis, your doctor will most likely examine your legs while you're standing and will look for swelling. Also, he or she may ask you if you have any of the varicose vein symptoms listed above.  As an ancillary test, your doctor may do an ultrasound test to see if the valves in your veins are working normally or if there's any evidence of a blood clot.  Ultimately, it is smart to see a specialist for varicose veins and spider vein treatment.  When doing your research, whether using veindirectory.org or other sites, choose a physician who specializes in the varicose vein removal procedures.  Veindirectory.org has made the process simple for you.  You can research using this site and learn about the procedures offered by the physicians.  To make it even easier for you, we have provided for you the telephone numbers of each facility. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call.

Ulcers

Painful ulcers may form on the skin near varicose veins, particularly near the ankles. Increased pressure of blood within the affected veins can cause "water logging" which is a cause of the ulcers. Sometimes there is a brownish pigmentation prior to developing the ulcer. It is important to see a physician immediately if you suspect you've developed an ulcer

Sudden Swelling of the Leg

If you have considerable swelling in the leg (caused by the enlarging of veins deep within the legs) you must see a doctor immediately.  Any sudden leg swelling requires urgent medical attention because it may indicate a blood clot — a condition known medically as thrombophlebitis.

Varicose Vein Treatment Options

Most physicians will say that hospital stay was thing in the past.  Treatment today usually doesn't mean a hospital stay or a time consuming, uncomfortable recovery. Less invasive techniques are available that can be done fairly quickly.

The use of compression stockings may prove effective for your condition.  Learn more about compression stockings...

Prior to getting treatment for your varicose veins, you should ask a physician about the affects of: compression stockings, exercising, losing weight, not wearing tight clothes, elevating your legs, avoiding long periods of standing or sitting.  These are helpful in prevention and slowing the progression of the condition.

If you are pregnant and have varicose veins, please note that varicose veins that develop during pregnancy generally improve without treatment within a few months after delivery.  However, it is never a bad idea to ask a specialist.

Below are some procedures that your physician may recommend:

There are many other varicose vein treatments out there which include laser surgeries, catheter-assisted procedures and endoscopic vein surgeries. Please consult your physician or other medical care provider regarding what type of treatment is best for you.

Please also remember that current treatments for varicose veins and spider veins are highly successful. However, it's possible that varicose veins can recur.

Prevention

There's no way to completely prevent varicose veins. But improving your circulation and muscle tone can reduce your risk of developing varicose veins or getting additional ones. Traditional, common-sense approaches include:

  • Exercise. Get your legs moving. Walking is a great way to encourage blood circulation in your legs. Your doctor can recommend an appropriate activity level for you.
  • Watch your weight, and your diet. Shedding excess pounds takes unnecessary pressure off your veins. What you eat makes a difference, too. Follow a low-salt, high-fiber diet to prevent the swelling that may result from water retention and constipation.
  • Watch what you wear. Avoid high heels. Low-heeled shoes work calf muscles more, which is better for your veins. Don't wear tight clothes around your waist, legs or groin. Tight panty-leg girdles, for instance, can restrict circulation.
  • Elevate your legs. To improve venous circulation, take several short breaks daily to elevate your legs above the level of your heart. For example, lie down with your legs resting on three or four pillows.
  • Avoid long periods of sitting or standing. Make a point of changing your position frequently to encourage blood flow. Try to move around at least every 30 minutes.
  • Don't sit with your legs crossed. This position can aggravate circulation problems.

Alternative Medicine

Some alternative medicine experts have noted that horse chestnut seed extract may be an effective treatment for chronic venous insufficiency; this is a condition associated with varicose veins in which the leg veins have problems returning blood to the heart. The herb may help improve swelling and discomfort caused by varicose veins. Make sure you talk with your doctor before trying horse chestnut seed extract or any other herb or dietary supplement.

Always Be a Cautious Consumer
Before undergoing any procedure, ask your doctor about any health risks and possible side effects.

Unless you fit into the coverage criteria (if you have signs or symptoms such as swelling and bleeding), most insurance companies will not reimburse for a cosmetic procedure.  However, for more information, click here to read up on the health insurance coverage information.  Even though the treatments are not too costly, they can still add up.  It may be wise to inquire about treatment costs, as well.


Varicose Veins Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


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Varicose Vein Education

By VeinDirectory.org Staff
Updated: November 17, 2007

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