You may have noticed odd looking veins under your skin in your legs or ankles, and wondered to yourself, "When did those get there?" and "Where did they come from?"
For some, these varicose veins are nothing more than a cosmetic annoyance; but for others, they can be a source of major discomfort and the warning sign of a more severe condition.
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are bulging, swollen, dark blue or purple, twisted veins near the surface of your skin. Typically, they are more visible in the legs, calves and ankles. Anyone can get them, although they're more common in women than in men, and often run in families.
Symptoms of varicose veins include:
- A dull ache, burning, or heaviness in the legs, especially late in the day or after you've been sitting or standing for a long period of time
- Mild swelling of the feet and ankles
- Itchy skin over the varicose vein
- Bleeding or bruising after a minor injury
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Normally, one-way vales in our veins keep blood flowing from our legs back up to our heart. When these valves aren't working as well as they should, blood starts to collect in the legs causing pressure. You may have been born with weakened walls in your veins or a defective valve, or these can develop later in life. Aging increases your risk but they can also be caused by pregnancy, being severely overweight, or by standing for long periods of time.
Usually, varicose veins are not serious, but they can be a symptom of other problems that may need attention or treatment, including blood clots or blockage in the deep veins or perforating veins, injury to the deep veins, abnormal blood vessels or, in rare occasions, tumors.
Treatment of Varicose Veins
You can reduce the symptoms of varicose veins by doing the following things:
- Exercise. Walking, bicycling, and swimming are recommended for varicose veins.
- Wear compression stockings. They improve circulation and are a mainstay of treatment for varicose veins that are causing symptoms.
- Elevate your legs regularly. Elevating your legs helps keep the blood from pooling in your lower legs and improves blood flow to the rest of your body.
- Avoid long periods of standing or sitting. Sitting or standing still for long periods of time puts added stress on the veins in your legs.
Doctors recommend home treatment as a first step for varicose veins, if you still don't get the relief you need, it may be necessary to remove the damaged veins, treat any complications, or correct the underlying problem that is the root of the cause.
The Vascular Center at UnityPoint Health - Des Moines can help. We are committed to early recognition and treatment, and offer the resources and expertise you need to make varicose veins a thing of the past. Learn more about the options available to you through UnityPoint Health, and visit VascularWeb.org for detailed patient education information about a wide range of vascular conditions.