What are Varicose Veins?
A common condition affecting about half the adult population when the blood vessels in the legs become abnormally enlarged due to structural abnormalities. This causes weakness in the vessel walls. They appear as blue or purple spider-like lines usually on the legs or ankles but can be found anywhere on the body. Veins are the pathways of blood back to the heart from all parts of the body using a series of one-way valves. These valves can malfunction for many different reasons and blood pools within the engorged vein. It’s not a pretty sight but usually not dangerous. However, if left untreated, other conditions can arise.
Who Is At Risk?
There isn’t a clear understanding of what causes this condition but people are more at risk who fall into one or more of these categories:
- Being overweight or obese
- Pregnant or in menopause
- Females over 60
- Family history of condition
- Sedentary lifestyle
Jobs that require standing for long periods of time can put you at greater risk. Anything involving increased leg pressure or damage to the veins can lead to varicose veins.
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As the pressure builds in the vein, symptoms such as burning, heaviness, aching, tiredness or pain start to signal that something is wrong. Feet and ankles may swell and there may be itching at the sight of the swollen vein. After a long period of sitting or standing, it may be worse. Time to call the doctor! Experiencing more serious symptoms like leg swelling, changes in skin color, scaling or dry, thinning skin, inflammation or open sores indicate advanced problems that should be addressed as soon as possible.
If Left Untreated
All cases have different degrees of symptoms and can worsen for some becoming possible life-threatening issues such as:
Hyperpigmentation – painful swelling or inflammation caused by blood leaking into tissues that discolors the skin of the leg.
Venous Leg Ulcer – resulting from chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) causing skin to break down exposing flesh. Some can get larger if left untreated.
Spontaneous Bleeding – As vessel walls break down, the vein is closer to the surface making any slight scrape result in excess blood loss.
Lipodermosclerosis – A big name and a big problem involving hardening or stiffening of tissues in the legs making it harder to relax or move.
Superficial Thrombophlebitis – treatment for incompetent great saphenous vein is usually surgery. The vein becomes weakened and blood flow decreases close to the skin’s surface resulting in redness, swelling, tenderness and continuous pain.
Deep Vein Thrombosis – a life-threatening condition that indicates a blood clot is present with sensations of nerves being pinched, swelling and increased redness. Immediate consultation is recommended.
A variety of non-invasive procedures is available and in most cases done as an outpatient with quick recovery. Some self-care treatments include losing weight, exercising, elevating the legs, avoiding tight clothing and eliminating standing or sitting for long periods. Compression stockings are usually the first thing to try. Check with your doctor about simple, helpful methods as treatment for incompetent great saphenous vein. More severe procedures include:
Sclerotherapy – injections into smaller veins resulting in the veins closing and fading away. No anesthesia and performed in the doctor’s office.
Large vein foam sclerotherapy – A newer technique, foam solution injected to close and seal the vein.
Laser surgery – Strong bursts of light sent to the vein making it disappear. No needles or incisions.
Cathether-assisted radiofrequency or lasers – Heating the tip of a catheter and removing slowly using the heat to collapse and destroy the vein. Best for larger veins.
High ligation and stripping – Tying off a vein and removing using small incisions. Usually an outpatient procedure.
Ambulatory phlebectomy – Easier than it sounds, a series of small skin punctures with minimal scarring done in the office.
Endoscopic surgery – Only in advanced cases, a tiny video camera is inserted in the leg to see which veins are easily removed with small incisions.
Clever Tips and Tricks
It’s very important to see a doctor and sometimes a vascular specialist when you are experiencing any symptoms. In the meantime, for that short skirt or bare-legs-look that you want, consider some fast and easy ways to hide unsightly veins.
Makeup – Use under eye concealer before applying a good quality makeup a slight bit lighter than your own skin tone. For blue veins, use a yellow tinted one and for red-colored veins, use a reddish toned one.
Bronzing Creams – Can be used every day to hide scars and marks. Get some advice on the least chemically-laden.
Self-Care Home Remedies
- First and foremost is a healthy diet (fresh fruits, raw veggies)
- Try keeping feet elevated whenever possible
- Walking and moving legs often
- Wearing tight socks or stockings but avoid restricting circulation
- Check for herbal or alternative methods
These aren’t cure-alls but may help when you see the first signs of spider-like veins. It’s most important when using any alternative medicines to check with your doctor.