Varicose veins are veins that are in the superficial compartment of the leg that have become enlarged, swollen, twisted, and/or bulging due to venous reflux disease. The visible veins can be many colors but are most commonly red, blue or flesh-toned. The bulging veins most often appear on the thighs, back of the calves, and the inside of the legs.
Pregnant women may experience varicose veins in the vaginal, pelvic and buttocks area. When these veins appear they may indicate an issue of venous reflux disease in the legs or may be a symptom of a pelvic venous issue. At Precision VIR, we can help diagnose all venous issues including that of pelvic venous insufficiency.
The venous system can be broken down into four major classes. Insufficiencies can present in any of these veins, and treatment can vary depending on the classification. It is important to also understand the nervous system of the lower extremities before performing any laser vein treatment.
Varicose veins occur when your vein isn’t functioning properly. Veins have one-way valves that prevent blood from flowing backwards. When these valves fail, blood begins to collect in the vein rather than continuing toward your heart. Varicose veins often affect the legs because they are the farthest from the heart and gravity makes it harder for the blood to flow upward.
Genetics play a major role in the development of varicose veins.
Hormonal changes and pregnancy are major factors as to why women are more prone to get varicose veins than men.
Age. Vein and valve function may be deranged over time.
Weight. Being overweight can increase venous pressure in the legs and lower half of the body.
Standing or sitting for long periods
Varicose veins can cause a variety of symptoms that range from mild to severe and are not limited to just unsightly bulging. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed below, make an appointment to come in for a consultation with your Precision VIR specialist to determine if you do indeed suffer from a form of chronic venous insufficiency or venous reflux of the lower legs.
Am I A Candidate For Varicose Vein Treatment?
One of our doctors will perform and interpret your ultrasound during your initial consultation. If lower extremity venous insufficiency is present, appropriate treatment options, including conservative and minimally invasive therapy will be discussed and personalized for you.
DVTs may be treated with blood thinning medications called anticoagulants or clot-busting medications termed thrombolytic therapy. In some cases, clots are removed with a catheter or surgery. People that cannot tolerate or do not respond to anticoagulation may have a permanent filter inserted in their vein. The filter prevents large embolisms from entering the lungs but it does not stop blood clots from developing.
Am I at Risk?
Many factors may raise your risk for varicose veins, including family history, older age, gender, pregnancy, overweight or obesity, lack of movement, and leg trauma.
Having family members who have varicose veins may raise your risk for the condition. About half of all people who have varicose veins have a family history of them.
Getting older may raise your risk for varicose veins. The normal wear and tear of aging may cause the valves in your veins to weaken and not work well.
Women tend to get varicose veins more often than men. Hormonal changes that occur during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause (or with the use of birth control pills) may raise a woman’s risk for varicose veins.
During pregnancy, the growing fetus puts pressure on the veins in the mother’s legs. Varicose veins that occur during pregnancy usually get better within 3 to 12 months of delivery.
Overweight or Obesity
Being overweight or obese can put extra pressure on your veins. This can lead to varicose veins. For more information about overweight and obesity, go to the Health Topics Overweight and Obesity article.
Lack of Movement
Standing or sitting for a long time, especially with your legs bent or crossed, may raise your risk for varicose veins. This is because staying in one position for a long time may force your veins to work harder to pump blood to your heart.
Previous blood clots or traumatic damage to the valves in your veins can weaken their ability to move blood back to the heart, increasing the risk for varicose veins.
Varicose veins can cause complications because they stop your blood flowing properly. Most people who have varicose veins won’t develop complications, but, if you do, it will usually be several years after your varicose veins first appear. Some possible complications of varicose veins are explained below:
Varicose veins near the surface of your skin can sometimes bleed if you cut or bump your leg. The bleeding may be difficult to stop. You should lie down, raise your leg and apply direct pressure to the wound. Seek immediate medical advice if this doesn’t stop the bleeding.
If blood clots form in superficial veins (veins located just under the surface of your skin), it could lead to conditions such as thrombophlebitis or deep vein thrombosis.
Thrombophlebitis is swelling (inflammation) of the veins in your leg caused by blood clots forming in the vein. This can occur within your varicose veins and can:
When thrombophlebitis occurs in one of the superficial veins in your leg it’s known as superficial thrombophlebitis. Like varicose veins, thrombophlebitis can be treated with compression stockings. In some cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be prescribed.
Deep vein thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis may develop in up to 20% of people who develop a blood clot in superficial veins. It can cause pain and swelling in the leg, and may lead to serious complications such as pulmonary embolism.
Chronic venous insufficiency
If the blood in your veins doesn’t flow properly, it can interfere with the way your skin exchanges oxygen, nutrients and waste products with your blood. If the exchange is disrupted over a long period of time, it’s known as chronic venous insufficiency. Chronic venous insufficiency can sometimes cause other conditions to develop, including those described below.
Varicose eczema is a condition that causes your skin to become red, scaly and flaky. You may also develop blisters and crusting of your skin. This condition is often permanent, but does not lead to any major problems.
Lipodermatosclerosis causes your skin to become hardened and tight, and you may find it turns a red or brown color. The condition usually affects the calf area.
A venous ulcer develops when there is increased pressure in the veins of your lower leg. This causes fluid to seep from your vein and collect under the skin. The fluid can cause the skin to thicken, swell and eventually break down to form an ulcer. Venous ulcers most commonly form in the ankle area. You should see your GP immediately if you notice any unusual changes in your skin, such as those mentioned above. These conditions can usually be easily treated, but it’s important you receive treatment as soon as possible.
Do I Have To Treat Both Legs?
The abnormal limb or limbs should be treated thoroughly for best results. They may be treated at the same time or after one another.
How do you prevent varicose veins during pregnancy and beyond?
Mobility is the key. Walking is a healthy way to improve circulation in the legs while helping to prevent clots and varicose veins forming.
Avoid crossing your legs to decrease pressure in your legs. Crossing your legs increases the pressure felt by your veins dramatically and can lead to leg swelling and vein problems.
Practice elevating your legs during pregnancy. This will decrease the pressure in your legs to lessen the stress on your veins.
Maintaining a healthy diet and appropriate weight in pregnancy determined by your Obstetrician can help decrease the stress on your legs and veins.
Excess heat exposure such as in hot tubs, baths and saunas cause the veins to distend. This can lead to pooling of the blood in your legs.
Wearing properly fitted compression stockings or hosiery will help decrease the high pressure in your legs during pregnancy. By reducing leg swelling, you will preserve the veins and help prevent Varicose Veins forming.
Why does it occur more in the legs?
Gravity is the culprit. The distance from the feet to the heart is the furthest blood has to travel in the body. Consequently, those vessels experience a great deal of pressure. If vein valves can’t handle it, the backflow of blood can cause the surface veins to become swollen and distorted.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins—which afflict 10% to 20% of all adults—are swollen, twisted, blue veins that are close to the surface of the skin. Because valves in them are damaged, they hold more blood at higher pressure than normal. This forces fluid into the surrounding tissue, making the affected leg swell and feel heavy.
Unsightly and uncomfortable, varicose veins can promote swelling in the ankles and feet and itching of the skin. They may occur in almost any part of the leg but are most often seen in the back of the calf or on the inside of the leg between the groin and the ankle. Left untreated, patient symptoms are likely to worsen with some possibly leading to venous ulceration.
What causes varicose veins?
The normal function of leg veins – both the deep veins in the leg and the superficial veins – is to carry blood back to the heart. During walking, for instance, the calf muscle acts as a pump, contracting veins and forcing blood back to the heart.
To prevent blood from flowing in the wrong direction, veins have numerous valves. If the valves fail (a cause of venous reflux), blood flows back into superficial veins and back down the leg.
Who is at risk for varicose veins?
Conditions contributing to varicose veins include genetics, obesity, pregnancy, hormonal changes, work or hobbies requiring extended standing, and past vein diseases such as thrombophlebitis (i.e. inflammation of a vein as a blood clot forms.). Women suffer from varicose veins more than men, and the incidence increases to 50% of people over age 50.
What are the symptoms?
Varicose veins may ache, and feet and ankles may swell towards day’s end. Varicose veins can get sore and inflamed, causing redness of the skin around them. In some cases, patients may develop skin changes and/or venous ulceration.
Schedule an Appointment
To schedule an appointment for a varicose veins exam please call Precision VIR at 214-382-3200 or complete the form below.
Precision VIR serves the DFW area including Dallas, Fort Worth, Carrollton, Richardson, Garland, Mesquite, Highland Park, University Park, Park Cities, Plano, Frisco, Allen, McKinney, Arlington, Irving, Grand Prairie, Denton, Lewisville, Flower Mound and all of North Texas.
This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Prior to starting any new treatment or questions regarding a medical condition, always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider.