The Developmental Causes and Prevention of Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are enlarged veins that often have a gnarled or twisted appearance. They typically occur on the backs of the calves, the inside of the leg and the feet due to the pressure exerted on these areas when standing and walking. Varicose veins can lead to complications, such as ulcers and blood clots, and may be a sign of circulatory problems. The appearance of varicose veins makes them easy to diagnose. Symptoms may include burning, throbbing, swelling or aching. Pain usually worsens after sitting or standing for long periods of time. Varicose veins develop when the valves in the veins function inefficiently causing blood to stay in the vein longer than it should or even flow backwards.
There are several risk factors that increase the chances of developing varicose veins.
1) Age: As a person ages, the valves in the veins are more
likely to experience trouble working correctly.
2) Sex: Female hormones tend to relax vein walls. Also, taking hormone replacements or birth control pills increase the risk. 3) Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the volume of blood in the body increases in order to support a growing fetus yet the flow of blood from the legs to the pelvis is decreased.
4) Family History: Those with family members who had varicose veins have a greater risk of developing them.
5) Weight: Being overweight can increase the pressure on your veins.
6) Sitting/Standing for Long Periods: Being idle or stationary will reduce blood flow through veins.
Many of the factors - family history, age, sex, etc. - cannot be avoided. However, there are certain things you can reduce your risk by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, elevate your legs after extended periods of sitting or standing.
There are a number of treatments that are commonly considered. One of the first treatments is medically prescribed compression stockings. These tight stockings help blood move more efficiently through the veins. Some insurance companies require a 3 month stocking treatment before considering surgical intervention. If surgical intervention is necessary there are a number of different treatments to address varicose veins. A vascular specialist can evaluate this need and make appropriate recommendations. Next month we will describe and compare the different surgical methods.