Varicose veins are enlarged, rope-like veins that may be swollen and visible above the surface of the skin. They may be bluish or redish, but can also be flesh-colored. Varicose veins are one symptom of a condition called venous insufficiency where blood flow returning to the heart leaks backward through damaged vein valves. It is estimated that as many as one in five Americans suffer from some form of venous insufficiency, ranging from small surface veins to large varicosities causing significant daily leg pain, swelling, skin breakdown, and various degrees of disability.
What are symptoms of varicose veins?
Though symptoms vary, they may often include:
- Pain or cramping feeling
- Chronic aching
- Tingling or itching sensation
- Swelling or throbing
- Tenderness around the vein
- Tiredness in the legs
- Muscle cramps
In addition to these symptoms, those with varicose veins may find it difficult to stand for extended periods of time, which may interfere with job responsibilities. While much of the underlying disease process is hereditary, it is often triggered or worsened with pregnancies, long periods of standing, leg injuries, and hormonal factors.
Delaying treatment when you have experienced these symptoms can lead to further complications, such as:
- Phylebitis (Inflammation)
- Blood clots (e.g., DVT)
- Ankle sores or skin ulcers
What is a varicose vein?
In looking at the entire circulatory system, arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Once the various body parts use the oxygen in the blood, the veins return the oxygen-depleted blood back to your heart. This process is known as the venous pump. If the veins malfunction causing a condition known as venous insufficiency, the entire system fails to work properly. Then other problems can develop, including varicose veins, leg swelling, and pain.
Understanding the venous system
There are three kinds of veins in your legs. superficial veins, deep veins, and perforating veins. Closest to the skin are the perforating veins which connect to the superficial veins. They then connect to the deep veins found at the level of the bones and muscles. All veins must work very hard to pump the blood back to the heart against the downward force of gravity. To keep the blood moving in the right direction, and to keep if from flowing backwards, veins contain valves which open and close to control to let the blood flow. When these one-way valves are not working properly, the walls of the vein become weak as a result of the blood pooling. This causes the bulge we observe as a varicose vein. Because of the superficial nature of the vein, the bulging, twisting, rope-like result can be seen through the surface of the skin.
Don’t I need these veins?
One of the most common questions asked by our patients at Circulatory Centers is, “Don’t I need these veins even though they are damaged?” The answer is, “NO, you don’t need them.” You have miles of superficial veins in your leg, and a varicose vein is just a small portion of the entire network. Your body is already working to redirect the venous blood flow in your legs through the miles of good veins. When we treat your varicose veins, alleviate the back pressure and incorrect flow, your circulation will improve!
Knowing the symptoms of varicose veins
Approximately 40 million people suffer from varicose veins, and most are women. Although many people consider it to be a cosmetic condition, the fact is that varicose veins are an indication of a larger vascular problem requiring attention. The presence of varicose veins is proof that a once healthy vein is not functioning properly or working efficiently. Phlebitis (inflammation of veins), thrombosis (blood clots within the veins), and skin ulcers may occur when large veins go untreated.
Symptoms listed above are all signs that the circulation returning the blood to the heart may not be flowing properly. While vein conditions are not preventable, they are TREATABLE!
Leading factors causing varicose veins
Probably the most common factor is heredity. You may be genetically pre-disposed to varicose veins. If your parents or grandparents had vascular issues, you are at greater risk.
Females are at higher risk for vascular issues or venous disease due to hormonal conditions the effect the vein walls. There is also a higher incidence in females due to medical conditions more likely related to female health. The use of hormone replacement and birth control can effect your circulation.
Blood volume increases dramatically during pregnancy causing greater stress to the vein walls. Hormone levels are also elevated during pregnancy, again affecting your circulation and contributing to vein enlargement.
As we age our bodies lose elasticity in the vein walls, causing valves to malfunction. Our veins lose strength, and the body is working harder to pump blood through the circulatory system.
- Prolonged standing
Gravity is an enemy of your veins! Occupations and lifestyle that involve standing for long periods of time can cause an increase in blood pressure, and volume in the lower limbs.
Occupations that increase the risk of developing varicose veins
- Medical professionals, such as nurses
- Restaurant and retail professionals, such as bartenders and cashiers
- Hair stylists
Standing on your feet all day can lead to troubled veins!
Increased weight causes abnormal stress levels on your circulation and body in general. If you body is working harder to circulate blood, your veins are at risk of vascular issues. Along with weight gain, other issues such as diabetes can further increase the risk of varicose veins due to poor circulation.
- Physical trauma
Injuries to the lower limbs can damage underlying blood vessels, contributing to possible vein issues.
Turn to Circulatory Centers for the best care!
Circulatory Centers is proud to offer the most modern, state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment options. Patients are also pleasantly surprised to discover that 95% of treatments are covered by insurance. We utilize the most sophisticated diagnostic equipment, including high-resolution Doppler imaging, examining vein anatomy to identify malfunctioning leg vein valves.
Accurate and early detection of these insufficiencies allows us to diagnosis our patients with a high level of precision. When a patient’s venous insufficiency requires a correction of valve problems, we are able to offer a much less invasive option than would have been available even just a few years ago. Until just recently, the treatment involved outpatient surgery such as High Flush Ligation, more commonly known as “vein stripping.” But today, the vast majority of our patients with venous insufficiency can have this condition corrected with an in-office laser procedure known as EVLA (Endo Venus Laser Albation). EVLA has an incredibly high rate of success, and our physicians have become respected within the field of Phlebology for their expertise in performing this in-office procedure.
Trust your veins to the experts!
Make sure you are working with experts! Highly recognized for our patient care, Circulatory Centers has attained the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Vascular Laboratories (ICAVL), the highest recognition for providing exceptional patient care and quality testing for the diagnosis of vascular disease. Circulatory Centers is one of a select number of private vascular practices in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada to meet or exceed the ICAVL standards for noninvasive vascular testing. During the accreditation process, every aspect of the how daily operations impacts quality of patient health care is assessed andreviewed. Participation in and completion of the accreditation process demonstrates Circulatory Centers’ attention to a high level of patient care and quality testing.