Veins are an important part of the body, allowing blood to move from one area to the next. While this process is essential, it does not always move seamlessly. When blood flow changes, sometimes the resulting change can affect the veins themselves. This can lead to a variety of problems, including varicose veins. Most people have heard of varicose veins, but not nearly enough people truly understand what varicose veins are and how they can negatively affect the quality of your life.
What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are engorged veins. This means that they are significantly larger than normal. In some cases, the veins will protrude through the surface of the skin, causing severe and noticeable discoloration. Varicose veins are formed when blood flow is diminished in the extremities. When blood does not flow as smoothly, it starts to back up in low lying areas. This pooling blood eventually causes the veins to change. In some cases, spider veins occur, which are small networks of visible veins under the surface of the skin. In other cases, however, the veins become larger. These varicose veins can continue to grow in size if left untreated, creating further problems for those who suffer from them. Although varicose veins can affect anyone, women are more susceptible. Individuals who stand or sit for extended periods of time may also have an increased risk of developing varicose veins, and obesity can also be a contributing factor.
Common Symptoms of Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are fairly common, especially among older populations. While up to a quarter of all adults suffer from varicose veins, approximately half will have some by age 50. For some people, varicose veins are merely a cosmetic problem. These enlarged veins can be visibly unattractive, causing embarrassment. However, varicose veins can also lead to other, more serious symptoms.
In particular, people with varicose veins may suffer from ongoing pain, heaviness and aching. For most people, pain from varicose veins worsens at night, but it may impede other daily activities. Varicose veins can also lead to other skin issues, including irritation and wounds. In extreme cases, ulcers and blood clots may develop. In some cases, when wounds and ulcers are left untreated, patients develop infections and are at risk for possible amputation. Similarly, if blood clots go untreated, they can move to other parts of the body and cause various life-changing complications. Unfortunately, varicose veins usually do not improve on their own. In fact, most people with varicose veins experience worsening symptoms as they age.
How to Treat Varicose Veins
Because of the risks and pain associated with varicose veins, treatment is often important. While there are some lifestyle changes that can help minimize the effect of varicose veins, these changes can only keep the problem from getting worse instead of fixing it altogether. These methods include losing weight, increasing exercise and wearing compression stockings to support healthy blood flow.
When lifestyle changes are insufficient, more invasive measures can be taken. Traditionally, doctors have used a technique called vein stripping. With vein stripping, the doctor will actually remove a portion of the vein. This will redirect the flow of blood to healthier veins, thereby negating the painful side effects. However, vein stripping itself can be quite painful and time consuming.
Fortunately, there are newer alternatives that can provide promising results with far less intervention. One of the most exciting options uses a laser or radio frequency, which is delivered to the vein through a small catheter. The laser or radio frequency will heat the vein wall, causing it to collapse and ultimately seal itself shut. With the vein sealed off, blood flow will be naturally redirected. Unlike vein stripping, this minimally invasive varicose vein treatment allows the patient to stay conscious, and there is no significant recovery time.
When to Seek Medical Help
If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above due to varicose veins, it is time to seek help. While some lifestyle changes may help alleviate symptoms, it is advised to be evaluated by a medical doctor to check for other possible complications or underlying medical issues.
To learn more about minimally invasive vein treatments, contact MIIGS in Alexandria, LA. With a staff of board-certified radiologists and serving as the only interventional radiology clinic in the region, our team is well equipped to examine and treat a variety of issues, including varicose veins. Same- or next-day appointments are usually available, and no referral is necessary for new patients.
If you or a loved one suffers from varicose veins, call 318.528.7560 today or submit an online contact form to schedule your consultation. Visit our website to learn more about our treatment options for varicose veins and other ailments.