Varicose veins are veins that have become twisted and/or enlarged. Any vein can technically become varicose, but the most affected area is the legs. This is due to constant standing/walking which will increase the pressure in the veins of your legs. Most often this is just a cosmetic issue with people, but varicose veins can lead to other serious problems as well.
Signs of Varicose Veins
One physical sign of varicose veins can be veins that have a dark purple or blue hue to them. Another sign is that the veins appear to look like bulging cords on your legs. Other internal signs can be achy, burning, throbbing, cramping, and/or itching of your lower legs. Pain can also occur when sitting or standing for long periods of time.
Cause of Varicose Veins
The causes of varicose veins are due to weak or damaged valves. These tiny valves open when the blood is flowing towards your heart and close to prevent blood from flowing backward. If the valves are weak or damaged, then blood will flow backward and cause pooling which in turn makes the veins stretch and twist.
Risk factors can include age, gender, pregnancy, family history, obesity, and/or standing/ sitting for extended periods of time. With age, the valves have had a lot of wear and tear, so regulating blood flow becomes more difficult over time. Women are more likely to develop this condition due to hormonal changes, pregnancy, menopause, or pre-menstruation because of relaxed vein walls. Being overweight and standing/sitting for a long time will add pressure to your veins which in turn does not allow the blood to flow as smoothly.
There are many kinds of at-home treatments as well as medical treatments. Some at-home remedies include regular exercise and movement, compression stockings, dietary changes, keeping the legs elevated when sitting/laying down, and eating more flavonoids.
Regular movement can include low-impact workouts such as yoga, swimming, walking, and cycling. Compression socks will aid the muscles and veins to move blood towards the heart. Dietary changes to consider can be reducing your sodium intake and increase your potassium intake. This can be done by including foods such as almonds, pistachio nuts, lentils, and white beans in your daily meals. Flavonoids are phytonutrients (plant chemicals) that will improve your blood circulation. Some foods that contain flavonoids are vegetables (onions, bell peppers, spinach, broccoli), citrus fruits, cocoa, and garlic.
Medicinal/surgical treatments can include sclerotherapy, micro sclerotherapy, laser surgery, vein stripping and ligation, ambulatory phlebectomy, endoscopic vein surgery, and endovenous ablation therapy. Sclerotherapy is the use of a liquid chemical that will close off a varicose vein. The chemical will be injected into the vein and then over time the vein will close off and fade away. Micro sclerotherapy is used to treat small varicose veins. This is almost the same process as sclerotherapy, which is when a small amount of liquid chemical is injected into the vein. Then, the chemical will scar the inner lining of a vein and allow the vein to close off.
Laser Surgery is when light energy is applied using a laser to the varicose vein which allows for the vein to fade away without the use of chemicals or injections. This is primarily used for smaller varicose veins. Vein stripping and ligation are only used for extreme cases of varicose veins. The vein would potentially be tied off shut and removed. This is an outpatient procedure done under anesthetics.
Ambulatory phlebectomy is when incisions are made into the skin to remove the smaller varicose veins. This is only done when the varicose veins are close to the surface of the skin. Endoscopic vein surgery is also when an incision would be made into the skin and a camera is used to move through the vein. This procedure is only used when the varicose veins are causing skin ulcers.
Endovenous Ablation Surgery
Endovenous ablation surgery is when radio waves are used to create heat and close off the varicose veins. An incision is made near the disrupted vein and a catheter will be inserted. The laser at the tip will heat up inside the vein and close it off. As described above, there are many treatments and resources that can be utilized for varicose veins.