Varicose veins are swollen, blue, or purple veins that bulge out from the skin’s surface. They are usually located in the legs and feet but can appear in the arms, particularly in older adults. They cause no pain or discomfort and are only a cosmetic concern in many cases. However, in some people, they can lead to pain, numbness or tingling in the affected area, bruising, and, in rare cases, open sores.
Varicose veins are caused when blood pools in the affected veins causing them to swell and bulge out of the skin. The blood pools because the valves within the veins help keep the blood flowing against gravity and toward your heart failure. When this happens, some or all of the blood leaks back into the vein instead of continuing on its journey toward the heart.
Not all varicose veins require treatment. Those that do can be treated in several different ways. Here are a few statistics that may help you understand more about varicose veins, their treatments, and the risks associated with them.
Varicose Vein Causes and Prediliction
As many as 35 to 40% of Americans will develop varicose veins at some point in their lives. Varicose veins have a genetic link and tend to run in families, though people with no family history may still develop them, and those with a family history may not.
Women are more likely to suffer from varicose veins, but men also get them, especially as they age. It is also true that the older a person is, the more likely they are to develop varicose veins; however, young people can suffer from them.
Pregnant women, even those with no family history, may develop varicose veins because of the pressure put on the entire circulatory system as the fetus grows. The good news, sometimes the varicose veins that develop during pregnancy clear up on their own after childbirth.
Things that Increase The Chances of Developing Varicose Veins
While it is true that varicose veins may not be entirely avoidable, activities that increase a person’s chances of developing varicose veins include:
- Standing or sitting for extended periods
- Being overweight
- Not getting enough exercise
- Wearing tight clothing
- Eating a diet high in fat and low in fiber
Many incidences of varicose veins are due to work-related stress on the legs. Studies have shown that standing for more than 4 hours at a time regularly increases the chances of developing varicose veins in the lower legs by as much as 1.85xs.1 Other studies have found that varicose veins are 59.8 times more likely to show up in people who spend a significant part of their days lifting heavy objects.2
Treating Varicose Veins at Home
Not all varicose veins require treatment. In many cases, you can successfully treat the symptoms of varicose veins at home if you:
- Put your feet up, preferably even-with, or above, your heart
- Ice swollen areas
- Wear gradient compression stockings
- Exercise more, especially swimming, because the water pressure helps force the blood in the correct direction.
Medical treatments for Varicose Veins
All varicose veins are treatable, although some may take several steps to remove completely. Insurance will cover most treatments for varicose veins unless the treatment is determined to be cosmetic.
Several treatments can be used to treat varicose veins successfully. These include:
- EVLA (Endovenous Laser Ablation) — a laser seals off the faulty vein and damages the interior so that it will collapse and be absorbed by the surrounding tissue.
- RFA (Endovenous Radiofrequency Ablation) — is similar to EVLA except that radio waves are used to seal the vein and cause it to collapse.
- Microfoam Injection — a liquid foam is injected into the vein, sealing off the vein and causing damage to the inner lining.
- Cyanoacrylate — a medical-grade adhesive similar to super glue is injected into the vein to quickly seal it shut.
- MOCA (Endovenous Mechanochemical Ablation) — a rotating catheter is inserted into the vein to distribute a caustic chemical. The vein’s interior is damaged by both the catheter and the chemical, resulting in a rapid collapse.
- Phlebectomy — several small cuts are made in the skin, and the varicose veins are surgically removed.
Understanding Varicose Veins
Once you understand varicose veins, you can decide how to begin treating them. You may opt to treat them yourself by changing your lifestyle, wardrobe, and work habits. You may choose to seek treatment from a vein specialist and select one of the many available procedures to remove or reduce the visibility of varicose veins.
If you have varicose veins or are afraid you might develop them, your best bet is to make an appointment with a vein specialist to get the facts. They can give you the truth about varicose veins in general as well as the specifics of your veins. They will let you know if your veins need treatment and, if so, which ones will work best in your situation. Don’t rely on myths and rumors when it comes to your health — get the facts from the people who know the truth.
- Yun, M., Kim, Y., Kang, D. et al. (2018) A Study on Prevalence and Risk Factors for Varicose Veins in Nurses at a University Hospital. Safety and Health at Work, March 2018, 79-83. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2093791117301440
- Elamrawy, S., Darwish, I., Moustafa, S. et al. Epidemiological, lifestyle, and occupational factors associated with lower limb varicose veins: a case-control study. J. Egypt. Public. Health. Assoc. 96, 19 (2021).Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://jepha.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s42506-021-00075-0