The natural aging process is evident in many ways. From graying hair to sagging skin, as we move into our 40s, our bodies begin to show signs of age. Varicose veins are a common condition as we age and affect over 33 million Americans. Nearly twice as many women as men are diagnosed with varicose veins. For many, varicose veins are simply a superficial condition, but others can develop more complicated symptoms.
Simply put varicose vein are enlarged, sometimes twisted visible veins that most commonly develop on the legs, ankle, and feet. Usually purple or violet and many times rising above the skin’s surface, varicose veins are generally enlarged veins that are the manifestation of underlying vein disease. Veins in legs have one-way valves that return blood from your extremities back to the heart. Once damaged, these veins can present further complications.
The most common symptoms of varicose veins are bulging, twisted vein that appear purple or blue. Some will report painful achiness or a feeling heaviness in the legs. More severe symptoms may include swelling, burning, or throbbing of calves. Symptoms may worsen over time or after longs periods of sitting or standing. The skin around varicose veins may become dry or itchy and may even bleed.
Some individuals may be more prone to getting varicose veins. Risks factors for developing them include people who either stand or sit for prolonged periods during their day. Genetics also plays a big role in who may develop varicose veins. If you are overweight or obese, you may be more likely to get varicose veins. As discussed before, aging is another key risk factor in developing varicose veins beginning at around 40 years old.
Females are twice as likely as men to develop varicose veins, and pregnancy can certainly contribute to the likelihood that you may get varicose veins. Hormones are key culprits for why women are more prone to varicose veins. Progesterone is a hormone in women that regulates menstrual cycles and development. Progesterone also relaxes vein walls and valves thus increasing the breakdown of the veins in the legs. Some women may also experience varicose veins in the pelvic area particularly during pregnancies.
Your body’s natural reaction to hormones may not be something one can control, but there are steps women can take to try and mitigate the effects of them. One key step is to try and exercise regularly and avoid sitting or standing for extended periods of time. For instance, if you work at a desk, make a point of taking breaks to stand or walk at regular intervals. Likewise, if you have a lifestyle that demands constant standing, make sure to take breaks to sit or elevate your legs to relieve the constant pooling of blood to your legs.
Maintaining a healthy weight is paramount for all health matters in your life and may also help to lessen your chances of developing varicose veins. Compression stockings that can be purchased over the counter can help to improve blood circulation in the leg and thus lessen the chances of varicose veins from forming or worsening.
There are medical treatments for treating varicose veins, whether for cosmetic or medical reasons. The first step is to see a healthcare provider who specializes in the care and treatment of veins. After a comprehensive diagnosis of the affected veins and the symptoms, a provider may recommend one of several medical interventions, depending on the size and severity of the varicose veins.
These include sclerotherapy where the veins are injected with a solution that scars and closes the affected veins. Some veins may be treated with laser therapy that uses bursts of light that can fade the appearance of varicose veins. Larger veins may require a surgical procedure called a laser ablation, whereby veins are closed with either laser energy or radiofrequency. Lastly, veins may be excised from the legs surgically through a variety of techniques. These procedures may or may not be covered by insurance, depending on the severity of the condition.
If varicose veins are concerning to you, reach out to your healthcare provider to discuss your options for treatment.