As people age, many grow concerned about the appearance of varicose veins in their legs. If you’re interested in treating your varicose veins, now is a good time so that they can recover by summer. Here are some things to know and consider.
Why do varicose veins occur?
Arteries carry blood away from the heart to other parts of the body, while veins are responsible for getting blood back to the heart. Veins defy gravity to ensure blood does not flow back down to the legs. But when they are damaged or weakened, it causes blood to flow downward. If this happens, veins can become widened or twisted. This gives them a more noticeable appearance.
What can increase the chances of developing varicose veins?
Damaged or weakened veins is the most common way someone develops varicose veins. Many conditions can lead to this, but the majority include having excess pressure on the abdomen and legs. This includes obesity, pregnancy and standing on your legs for prolonged periods.
Genetics and hormones can also play a role in the development of varicose veins. They are more likely to occur in women because of the changes women endure in a lifetime. Pre-menstruation, menopause, hormonal treatments and birth control can cause the vein walls to relax, making them weak and prone to damage.
Can varicose veins be life-threatening?
Typically, varicose veins do not pose a major health concern. However, they can cause aching pains, swelling, itching, throbbing or discoloration around the infected area. In some cases, a blood clot can develop in varicose veins. This may cause persistent pain and swelling in the vein and warrants medical attention.
Are there ways to prevent or help treat varicose veins at home?
Living an active lifestyle, losing weight, elevating your legs, and avoiding sitting and standing for extended times can help ease pain or prevent varicose veins from worsening. A second at-home prevention or alleviation technique is to wear compression garments during the day. The squeezing sensation helps your calf muscle move blood in an upwards motion more effectively. If these things don’t result in the desired outcome, it’s time to seek medical attention.
What medical treatments are available for those diagnosed?
Several options are available to those seeking medical treatment of their varicose veins. They include:
- Sclerotherapy: the injection of medications to close off the affected vein(s).
- Catheter-assisted Ablation: use of a laser or radiofrequency through a catheter to seal the vein(s) shut.
- Mechanical or Chemical Ablation: use of non-thermal technology to close off the vein(s).
- Vein Ligation and/or Vein Stripping: tying off an infected vein, and in extreme cases, removing the vein through small incisions.
- Ambulatory Phlebectomy: removing tiny varicose vein(s) through small incisions.
What is recovery like for medical treatments for varicose veins?
Medical treatments for varicose veins are outpatient procedures that need little to no downtime. This varies by procedure, but none of the treatments outlined above will restrict daily activity. Some of the treatments require patients to wear compression garments to help with healing. This usually lasts a few weeks after the procedure.
If varicose veins affect how you look or feel, there are many treatment options available. Winter is an ideal time for many to explore those options.
Dr. Asava-Aree is a ProMedica physician specializing in vascular medicine with Jobst Vascular Institute.
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