Varicose veins are swollen, enlarged, and twisted veins often caused by faulty or damaged valves. There is no known cause of varicose veins. Generally, varicose veins are benign and often appear on feet and legs. It is worth noting that varicose veins are invisible in some cases and do not always bulge on the surface. Therefore, one may experience discomfort and pain for an extended period before realising varicose veins are the cause. They usually appear as dark purple or blue and are lumpy. Anyone can have varicose veins.
When the tiny valves inside your veins stop working efficiently, varicose veins develop. Blood is supposed to flow to the heart in a healthy vein smoothly. There are series of tiny valves that close and open to let blood through, therefore, preventing it from flowing backward. However, when the valves are damaged or weakened, the blood will flow backward. This leads to it collecting in the vein, which eventually causes the vein to be enlarged and swollen.
Although anyone can have varicose veins, factors like old age, being overweight, and pregnancy increase your chances of having varicose veins. It is also worth noting that women are more likely to develop varicose veins than men. Any vein in your body can become a varicose vein, but in most instances, the veins in your feet and legs are the ones that are affected. This is because a lot of pressure is exerted on your lower body by walking and standing.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
Varicose veins do not always present symptoms, and when they do, they may be influenced by conditions like warm weather. The symptoms are often worse late in the day, when the weather is warm, or when one has been standing up for a long time. In cases where there are symptoms, there is usually a range of them this include:
- Fatigue or heaviness in the legs
- Skin discoloration
- The skin on the affected area is itchy
- Muscle cramps in your legs that are especially predominant at night
- Throbbing or burning
- Swollen ankles and feet
- Uncomfortable and aching legs
As mentioned earlier, anyone can develop varicose vein, but some of the risk factors that increase your chances of developing varicose vein are:
- Sitting or standing for long periods can increase your chances of developing varicose veins because when you are in the same position for an extended period, your blood does not flow well.
- Being overweight exerts extra pressure on your veins, which could result in you developing varicose veins.
- If you have family members with varicose veins, it is likely that you may also develop them.
- Being pregnant increases your chances of getting varicose veins because your body’s blood volume increases when you are pregnant. Hormonal changes can also play a significant role.
- As mentioned earlier, women are more likely to have varicose veins than men due to hormonal changes that occur before their period, during menopause, or during pregnancy. The hormones often relax the veins’ walls. Being on birth control may also be a risk factor.
- The older you grow, the more your chances of getting varicose veins increase. As you age, the valves in your veins wear and tear.
Pain from Varicose Veins
They are a common cause of pain in the legs. People with varicose veins usually describe the pain as a deep ache or heaviness. It is worth noting that not everyone experiences the same kind of pain. Other people’s pain may be mild, and others may experience more severe symptoms. Phlebitis is a condition that causes pain and often occurs when varicose veins are inflamed, causing blood clots.
Signs that could indicate that one has phlebitis include discoloration, hardness, heat, and pain. Toxins and pressure may build up when a vein bursts since blood could pool around the affected area. Varicose veins can cause a person’s skin to tear, which is extremely painful or could cause an ulcer to develop.
Varicose veins could cause different complications. Although this occurs in rare cases, some of the complications may include:
- Bleeding, which may occasionally occur when the veins that are close to the skin burst. Although the bleeding is often minor, it would be best to seek medical attention.
- Blood clots may occur. Sometimes, the veins that are deep within the legs will become enlarged. When this happens, the affected leg may swell and become painful. If you notice any swelling or persistent pain in your leg, make sure you seek medical attention because it could be as a result of a blood clot.
- Painful ulcers may form near the varicose vein on the skin, especially near the ankles. Before the ulcer forms, you may notice a discoloured patch forming on your skin. Make sure that you immediately see your health care provider if you suspect that you have developed an ulcer.
Other Factors That Can Affect Varicose Vein Pain
Various other issues can affect varicose vein pain these include the following.
Varicose veins can lead to inflammation and a clot forming in the vein. The clot formed often appears close to the skin’s surface. This condition is known as superficial thrombosis. It often causes pain and could result in other problems developing in the affected area.
Varicose veins may lead to dermatitis, an inflamed and itchy rash. The rash often appears on the ankle or lower leg when varicose veins cause it. Dermatitis can cause sores, bleeding, or skin ulcers, which can be quite painful and could become infected when they are irritated or scratched.
Varicose veins can potentially cause problems in other body parts, particularly in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is made up of a network of vessels that aid in transporting and removing toxins and waste products. It plays a significant role in the function of the immune system.
The varicose veins sometimes damage the lymphatic system. This leads to a condition known as lymphedema that causes swelling, usually in the toes and feet. People with lymphedema could develop cellulitis, a severe skin infection that causes inflammation to the skin’s soft tissue. Other people could also develop venous stasis dermatitis, a condition where the skin becomes ruddy-brown and leathery. In some cases, a clear yellow fluid could sweep through the skin.
How to Relieve Your Pain
Medical intervention is the only way you can permanently get rid of the pain and discomfort caused by varicose veins. However, you can employ several other methods at home to get relief from your pain and discomfort. Listed below are a few tips you can use at home when your varicose vein causes you discomfort.
Drink a Lot of Water
As with regular exercise, being adequately hydrated can significantly improve your blood flow. Therefore, if you have varicose veins, ensure that you drink a lot of water for good circulation. This can help reduce your discomfort.
Soak Your Legs in Cold Water
As mentioned earlier, most people with varicose veins often experience a lot of discomfort during warm weather conditions. This is because veins dilate when the weather is warm, which adds more pressure to the varicose veins, which are already under a lot of strain.
If you have had a long day or your varicose vein is causing you discomfort, soak your legs in a tub with cold water. It will shrink the veins. This will prevent the throbbing and cramping of varicose veins. It would be best to avoid spending time in a hot tub and taking hot baths since this can aggravate your varicose veins. Heat negatively affects your veins, and your throbbing pain could worsen when you spend a lot of time in hot water. Therefore, unless it is necessary, avoid using hot water when you shower.
Stretch and Change Your Position Frequently
Standing or sitting in the same position will worsen and aggravate the pain and discomfort caused by varicose veins. When you stretch and move your legs, it improves the blood flow through your body. This, in turn, helps in reducing the pain caused by varicose veins.
Make sure that you keep switching and alternating your position at least every thirty minutes throughout the day. If your job involves you sitting through the day, try and go out for a walk during your lunch break and occasionally bend your knees. If your job consists of a lot of standing, try and sit whenever you can, or stretch your legs after every couple of minutes.
Exercising can significantly help in alleviating the pain caused by varicose veins. You do not have to partake in intense exercises. If you are not sure about what exercises are right for you, you can consult with your physician. However, the exercises can be as simple as flexing your feet as often as you can, taking a short walk, or any exercise that involves you stretching your calf muscles. Always opt for walking short distances whenever you can.
Elevate Your Legs
As mentioned earlier, varicose veins result from the valves in your veins being damaged and failing to facilitate efficient blood flow. Therefore, when you elevate your legs, you can help push the blood from your body’s lower part. Lie on your bed and prop your legs up on about four pillows.
Make sure that your legs are above your heart. You can do this for fifteen to thirty minutes, four times every day. You can also stretch your legs up on a wall or place your feet on the table. As long as they are well elevated, you will get instant relief from the pain and discomfort caused by varicose veins.
There isn’t enough evidence that varicose veins can be prevented from forming. However, People can make multiple lifestyle changes that could prevent varicose veins from getting worse and lessen the symptoms. Some of the symptoms relief and prevention methods that one can employ include:
- Avoid wearing high-heeled shoes for extended periods
- Avoid clothes that are tight-fitting, especially ones that are tight around the legs, groin, and waist
- If you are overweight, lose weight
- Exercise regularly to improve your circulation
- Whenever you are sleeping, resting, or sitting, ensure that the affected area is raised above your heart’s level
- Try and move around after every thirty minutes
- Eat a low-salt, high-fibre diet
- Avoid sitting or standing for an extended period
In most cases, you do not have to treat varicose veins unless they are causing you pain. Most people often seek treatment for cosmetic purposes. If your varicose veins are painful, there are various treatment methods you can select. If you have minimal to mild symptoms, you can employ the different relief methods and see if they help reduce your discomfort and pain. If they do not, you can use the listed treatment options.
This treatment method uses heat by either radiofrequency or laser to seal the veins that are affected. It takes about twenty minutes and is usually administered in your physician’s office. The procedure is often painless because the affected area is numbed using a local anaesthetic. The area will be wrapped using a compression bandage once the procedure is complete.
Compression stockings are often the first treatment option that a doctor will suggest. It is recommended that you also exercise regularly and elevate your legs. Before one feels the full effect, they may have to wear the stocking for about six months. These stockings often compress the tissue in the leg around the veins, preventing blood from pooling. They are meant to reduce associated swelling and aching.
During this procedure, a foam known as sclerosant is injected into the varicose vein. The foam makes the vein spasm, scar, and clot, resulting in the vein closing off. The clot is not dangerous. The varicose vein disappears over time.
Some people may require surgery that could include stripping, where the surgeon will remove the vein, or litigation, where the veins will be tied, to stop the blood from pooling.
When to See a Doctor
You do not have to see a doctor if you are not experiencing any pain or discomfort. Besides, varicose veins are not considered a serious condition unless they are severe. You can employ some of the relief methods mentioned to minimize your pain.
Things like regular exercise can alleviate your pain and prevent your condition from getting worse. If you often experience irritation, discomfort, or pain, especially at night, make sure you consult your health care provider. As mentioned earlier, varicose veins are not always visible, so if you experience fatigue, swelling, or aching, see a doctor and get evaluated.
As aforementioned, varicose vein is not a threatening condition and in most cases, keeping a healthy weight, exercising, and having a healthy diet can have a significant impact. However, if the varicose veins’ appearance on your skin bothers you, you can get that fixed. It is worth noting that you will privately cover the cost since it will be considered a cosmetic procedure. Make sure when you visit your health care provider you let them know all the symptoms you experience. At-home self-care remedies to minimise your pain are great but seek medical attention immediately if the pain is severe. Do not forget to move around as much as you can.
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