Pregnant young women get them. So do aging women and men.
Varicose veins, which lie just under the surface of the skin and appear swollen, twisted, and enlarged, may or may not represent a threat to your health. In some, they’re simply an aesthetic issue. In others, they can lead to serious conditions, like leg swelling, pain, changes in the skin, blood clots, and deep vein thrombosis. This is especially true as we age.
Varicose veins may appear anywhere in the legs, feet or ankles. They form when the valves in the veins which keep blood moving toward the heart weaken or fail to work properly. Blood backs up in the vein, and it swells from the pressure. Spider veins? They’re mini versions of varicose veins.
They’re also very common in pregnant women. During pregnancy, veins become more relaxed, and more blood travels through them. When the additional baby weight is gained, the pressure on the veins below the leg may cause problems with the valves, which in turn cause varicose veins to form.
In the aging population, varicose veins are more common. They may pose no health risk, but they also may indicate the presence of blood clots or a blockage deep in the veins. They may also be caused by a blockage or injury in the veins which connect the small veins near the surface of the skin to the veins deep within the muscle.
Varicose veins typically become worse over time, due to the malfunctioning vessel or valve. If the at-home treatments listed below don’t work for you, please make an appointment with your podiatrist for an evaluation.
Symptoms of varicose veins
- Veins appear dark, blue, red, swollen, or twisted
- A heavy feeling in the legs
- Areas around the veins are itchy
- Swelling, cramping, or pain in the feet, ankles, or lower legs
- Changes in skin color
- Dry, irritated, scaly skin
- Skin sores which are difficult to heal
- Thickening and hardening of the skin in the legs and ankles
Who is most likely to develop varicose veins?
- Women over 50, and some men
- Those born with defective valves in their veins
- Those who are obese or overweight
- Pregnant women
- Those with a history of blood clots in their legs
- Those with a family history of varicose veins
At-home treatment for varicose veins
- Compression stockings gently squeeze your legs and keep blood flowing towards your heart. They also decrease swelling.
- When sitting or standing for long periods, move your legs a little to keep blood flowing.
- When resting, raise your legs above your heart for 15 minutes at a time.
- If overweight, develop a weight management plan with your physician.
- Low impact exercise like swimming or walking is helpful for managing your weight and keeping blood flowing.
- Dry or cracked skin can be relieved with moisturizers. However, check with your physician to be sure it’s appropriate for your condition.
If at-home treatments fail to relieve your discomfort, your physician may recommend:
- If the veins are small, such as spider veins, laser therapy may be effective.
- Sclerotherapy, in which a solution is injected into the vein which makes it disappear.
- Radiofrequency Ablation, which uses heat to close off and destroy the vein. The vein slowly disappears.
- Surgical vein stripping. Small cuts are made in the leg near the damaged vein, which is then removed.
- Surgical valve repair
- Surgical bypass to reroute blood flow around the damaged vein.
- Angioplasty or stent to open the vein, if it has narrowed.