Varicose veins may be obvious when they appear on your legs but the facts about varicose veins are not as well understood. Myths abound, and here are just a few – along with the truth – so that you can make smart and informed decisions about your health.
Although they’re not particularly lovely to look at, varicose veins are not simply an eyesore. Varicose veins come with myriad symptoms, including sore, aching or itchy legs. They may also be accompanied by swelling, pain or ulcers.
But even beyond the symptoms, untreated varicose veins can lead to more serious health problems. Since veins are located near nerves, inflamed veins can result in nerve conditions or can worsen existing ones.
Blood clots can form, too, and if that happens in deep veins they can break loose and travel through your bloodstream to your lungs, blocking blood flow and causing pulmonary embolism and even death.
So even though you may not like the sight of them, you can see that they are not merely a cosmetic issue and should be treated by a specialist immediately.
We just talked about some of the more unpleasant symptoms of varicose veins but attributing them to the appropriate cause is not as simple.
You may recognize visible varicose veins but the fact is that they’re not always visible. Sometimes you may just have a sense of discomfort or aching legs. If you spend the majority of the day on your feet, it’s easy to attribute sore legs to standing a lot.
And if you’re prone to dry skin and itching, especially during winter months, you may attribute that to a seasonal cause.
But sore legs can be more than a sign of exertion and itching can signify much deeper issues. If you experience any of the symptoms we discussed here, see a doctor or specialist, who will conduct and Ultrasound to rule out – or confirm – varicose veins. The sooner you uncover them the sooner you can have them treated and avoid the adverse effects of ignoring them.
Years ago the only viable option for removing varicose veins was a process called vein stripping, and it did involve an overnight stay in a hospital with general anesthesia. It could also be painful, leaving patients with a long recovery time.
If you recall unpleasant experiences with parents or grandparents who went through this process, no wonder you hesitate to get your varicose veins diagnosed and treated!
But vein stripping is not commonly practiced anymore and practically speaking it should not be an option. There are a number of minimally invasive and pain-ways to treat varicose veins, including laser therapy, sclerotherapy and radiofrequency therapy.
Don’t let any of those names scare you! They are all inpatient procedures and can be done quickly, with only a local anesthetic and no recovery time.
As we just mentioned, vein stripping was a past practice that did require recovery time but today’s procedures can have you up and back to your regular routines and activities immediately.
You can drive yourself to and from the doctor’s office on the day of your procedure and the only thing your doctor will likely ask you to do is wear compression stockings for some time afterwards. They may be a bit hot and scratchy but they will help you heal nicely and assist in preventing future occurrences.
Did you notice that we said wearing compression stockings can help prevent future occurrences? That’s because varicose veins are considered a chronic condition. Although treated veins die and do not come back, that doesn’t mean you’ll never develop the condition in other veins.
A number of factors play into your risk of developing varicose veins, including some you can control – like being overweight and standing frequently – to some you can’t, like genetics and age.
If you’ve been diagnosed with and treated for varicose veins, it’s good practice to have an Ultrasound done every six months for maintenance. That way your doctor can detect any new varicose veins and treat them before they become a problem.
Don’t confuse spider veins with varicose veins here – although they both may be unsightly, spider veins are a cosmetic concern only, whereas varicose veins are a health issue.
This is an important distinction because while spider vein treatment is considered cosmetic and is often not covered by insurance, treatment of varicose veins is.
Check with your insurance carrier because chances are treatment is covered.
Actually, there is no correlation between frequently crossing legs and development of varicose veins. Being overweight is more likely to contribute, as is standing for long and frequent stretches.
If your lifestyle puts you at risk, be sure to see a doctor for an Ultrasound so varicose veins can be diagnosed early. And consider wearing compression stockings. They can stimulate circulation and prevent blood from accumulating in veins, resulting in the swelling and aching that can signify bigger problems.
Both men and women can develop varicose veins, although the occurrence in women is slightly higher due to factors that include hormones and pregnancy.
And while the number of estimated men vs. women changes depending on the source you read, generally speaking only about 10% more women than men experience varicose veins.
In fact, anyone – man, woman, young old – who spends a great deal of time standing or carries excessive weight that can cause pressure on veins is at risk for developing varicose veins. Before you discount the possibility due to gender or because you don’t think you fall into a risk category, consider the health repercussions of leaving affected veins untreated.
See your doctor or specialist for a consultation and Ultrasound – and if you experience any of the symptoms we mentioned, don’t hesitate.
If you have any questions or concerns about the appearance of varicose veins or if you suspect your aches or other symptoms may be attributed to them, let us know. We’re available to answer any of your questions and provide you with a pain-and stress-experience.