Varicose Veins: More Than a Cosmetic Concern
Although varicose veins might seem to be a purely cosmetic issue, beyond making your legs look unattractive they can cause some health problems.
Before looking at these, let’s review what causes varicose veins. All the veins in our body have valves to keep the blood flowing and to prevent blood from pooling up in one place. If these valves fail, as they sometimes do, blood backs up and puts pressure on the vessel walls. This causes the blood vessels to expand like a balloon and bulge out. With large or numerous varicose veins, the legs can feel heavy and achy.
While there is a genetic predisposition to varicose veins, being overweight or standing for many hours at a time increases this risk. Varicose veins has also been found to be a side effect of pregnancy in some cases.
What problems can occur?
- Faulty valves in the veins allow blood to collect and clot. Cleveland Clinic vascular surgeon George Anton, MD uses the analogy of a running stream versus a stagnant pond. “This can cause phlebitis, a superficial clot that can be painful, but usually not life threatening.”
- Clots associated with varicose veins can result from poor blood circulation. In the case a clot bursts, it can travel up to the lung and cause serious problems (such as pulmonary embolism).
- Pooling or stagnating in the blood vessels can eventually lead to the development of ulcers and sores. Venous stasis ulcers, or open sores, for instance, form when fluid drainage is inadequate.
- Extensive varicose veins hinder the circulation in your legs, which can cause edema, or swelling related to fluid buildup. If this condition develops, you are more at risk for fungal and bacterial infections of the surrounding tissue and area.
- When veins become swollen with blood and damaged from chronic pressure on them, they may hemorrhage, or burst, and cause bleeding.
Options for Treatment
There are several different options when it comes to treating or managing varicose veins. Wearing compression -stockings or -socks helps prevent varicose vein symptoms from developing or worsening and helps manage the discomfort they cause. Dr. Anton identifies three additional methods to decrease venous pressure: “Leg elevation when appropriate, pumping your feet or exercise, or external compression with stockings. Should the conservative measures fail, you should seek consultation for further treatments.” Consult with your doctor which method is best for you.
This Zalea Original piece was edited and approved by the Zalea Editorial Team.