Are varicose veins dangerous? While most people don’t develop serious problems from varicose veins, it is a common misconception that they are just a cosmetic issue.
According to the American Heart Association, approximately 30 million American adults have varicose veins. Also known as dilated veins, varicose veins result from increased pressure in the leg veins, similar to what causes spider veins. This increased pressure can be due to multiple reasons, such as weakness in the vein valves (known as venous insufficiency), blood clots, compression of the vein, or lifestyle.
Burning, redness and pain are common symptoms associated with varicose veins. Increased pressure in the leg veins can lead to disabling swelling, heaviness, tiredness, and pain, limiting your daily activities. You can also develop discoloration, itching and wounds. If not treated, worsening pressure can lead to increased leg swelling, wounds and possibly blood clots.
Varicose veins are diagnosed by a physical exam and should be part of your annual physical. Some common risk factors for developing varicose veins include:
- Family history of vein disease
- Female gender
- Prolonged standing
Compression stockings (not socks) can help reduce the pressure in your leg veins, decrease the size of varicose veins and improve symptoms. Prescription compression stockings are designed to apply different amounts of pressure, which helps fluid circulate evenly through.
However, compression stockings are not your only treatment option. Other standard outpatient treatment options include:
- Sclerotherapy: A procedure that involves an injection of a solution into the vein, causing them to collapse and disappear.
- Laser ablation: A procedure in which a laser stops the vein from weakening, reducing the vein's pressure.
- Varicose vein phlebectomy: A procedure that uses needles to remove veins just below the skin's surface.
Preventing varicose veins may be unavoidable for some people, depending on your family history or other medical conditions. However, there are several things that you can do to reduce the likelihood of varicose veins developing. This includes daily exercise to improve circulation, managing your diet and weight, and reducing salt intake.
Suppose you are experiencing any symptoms of varicose veins. In that case, it’s important to talk to a vascular surgeon about your treatment options. Click here to schedule an appointment with an Ochsner vascular surgeon today.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Sep 12, 2019.
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