If you have varicose veins, you know they can really stand out.
Some varicose veins are large, swollen, and bulging; they might even seem twisted or bumpy. Others stay flat, yet you can still see them because they become purplish or bluish. But why do some veins bulge while others don’t?
For an answer, let’s take a closer look at varicose veins: what they are, causes, and how they can be treated.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
To start, extremely small pieces of tissue are inside your veins called valves. They’re in the shape of a half-moon and keep opening and closing.
When your vein valves function properly, your blood can’t flow backwards inside your veins. Thus, it keeps heading back toward your heart.
Sometimes, though, these valves don’t work properly. Due to aging, genetics, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, certain hormones, or even tight waistbands, vein valves can get damaged or weaken over time.
On top of that, if your job requires you to stand still for most of the day, that could harm your vein valves.
Whatever the cause of the damage, whenever vein valves aren’t able to do their job, blood can travel in reverse. Then it will start to collect inside the vein. And, when a vein is affected in this way, it’s called a varicose vein.
Bulging Veins, Flat Veins
This pooling of blood can cause veins to bulge. These blood vessels can become twisted and gnarled, too.
In most cases, varicose veins occur in a person’s feet or legs. After all, the veins there have to send blood a long way, and they’re usually pushing against gravity. Thus, their valves work especially hard.
Varicose veins can also show up in other parts of the body, including the arms, hands, face, and pelvis.
For their part, spider veins are a kind of subgroup of varicose veins. Alternatively, they could be classified as a symptom of varicose vein disorder.
Spider veins often appear bluish or purplish because of the blood that’s backed up inside them. (Varicose veins, meanwhile, may turn a colour such as red or blue, or they might not change colour in a noticeable way.)
Spider veins don’t bulge, however. That’s because these veins are so thin, so tiny, and so close to the surface of the skin. There’s very little space for blood to pool. In fact, these veins are typically less than a millimetre in diameter. Therefore, they stay flat — or, at the most, they bump up ever so slightly.
What Should You Do If You Have Varicose Veins?
In most cases varicose veins are a cosmetic issue, and they often don’t need special medical attention or treatment. That’s particularly true, in most cases, of spider veins.
However, there are times when these veins are part of a underlying vascular problem and requires medical intervention.
Such symptoms could include aches, throbbing, swelling, and cramping in the legs or feet. Or your legs might simply feel tired. Dry or itchy skin is a common by-product of varicose veins, too. And, in some instances, they cause skin sores called venous ulcers.
Furthermore, varicose veins can, in rarer instances, induce serious problems like ulcers, hardened veins, and blood clots. And people with thin skin can be susceptible to bleeding due to a burst vein.
How Are Varicose Veins Treated?
If you’re experiencing more serious symptoms or conditions due to a varicose vein, your vascular specialist can provide treatment. Treatment is available in different forms.
Also, your doctor might advise you to walk around at least once every half hour. And, when you’re at rest, elevate the foot or leg with the varicose vein.
Wearing compression socks or stockings can also provide relief. Those items apply constant pressure to a person’s legs and ankles. In doing so, they gently squeeze the blood vessels, improving the flow of blood.
Another option is a vein ablation. With an ultrasound or a laser, a doctor can seal a varicose vein shut, rendering it useless. Afterwards, the body will just absorb the blood vessel whole. And all blood will be rerouted through nearby veins.
Another form of varicose treatment is called sclerotherapy. To perform this procedure, a doctor injects sclerosant into the affected vein. Sclerosant is a solution that will destroy a vein. As with a vein ablation, the body will then start sending the blood through other healthy veins.
Your vascular consultant might want to remove your varicose vein with a surgical procedure called ambulatory phlebectomy, which can be performed as an outpatient procedure. It’s a safe and quick operation, one that rarely takes longer than an hour to complete.
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