What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are bulging veins that are abnormally dilated. Varicose veins are typically 3mm or larger in diameter. These dilated veins may be only cosmetic, or can cause leg pain, aches, swelling, heaviness, fatigue, itching, restless legs, and throbbing. Severe varicose veins may decrease circulation while causing changes in skin, inflammation, phlebitis, or even ulceration of the lower leg.
Normal veins have one-way valves that keep blood flowing toward the heart and lungs. A varicose vein has valves that are not functioning properly. Because the valves are not functioning the blood tends to pool in the vein, thereby causing an increased pressure on the wall of the vein. This refluxing of flow then causes the vein to dilate and increases in size over time. This can feed into other veins causing more varicose veins and spider veins.
What are Spider Veins?
"Spider veins" are small red, blue or purple veins that commonly appear on the upper thighs, calves and ankles. It is estimated that at least one third of the adult female population is affected by this common problem. People often seek treatment for cosmetic reasons. Spider veins can, however, cause physical symptoms depending on the severity. These symptoms may include aching, heaviness, stinging sensations, itching, and night cramps.
Spider veins may be isolated or associated with “feeder” veins. They can also be associated with larger underlying malfunctioning veins. It is always recommended to rule out the underlying cause if there are associated symptoms with spider veins prior to treatment. Typical treatments for spider veins are Sclerotherapy and superficial lasers.
What causes Varicose Veins?
There are many causes of varicose veins. The following factors may play a part in the development of varicose veins and spider veins.
Heredity – There is a significant relationship between heredity and the development of varicose veins and spider veins.
Age – The development of varicose veins and spider veins may occur at any age but usually occurs between the ages of 18 and 35 years.
Gender – Females are affected approximately four times more frequently than males.
Pregnancy – Pregnancy is a common factor contributing to the formation of varicose veins and spider veins. The most important factor is circulating hormones that relax the vein walls. There is also a significant increase in the blood volume during pregnancy which tends to distend veins, causing valve dysfunction which leads to blood refluxing (flowing backwards) into veins. Additionally, later in pregnancy, the enlarged uterus can contribute by causing higher vein pressure leading to dilated veins. Varicose veins that develop during pregnancy may spontaneously improve or even disappear a few months after birth.
Lifestyle / Occupation – People who are involved with prolonged standing or sitting with their daily activities have an increased risk of developing varicose veins. Simply by the gravity forces of the blood continuously pressing against the closed valves causing the valves to fail, and leading to distention in the veins.
A few lifestyle factors that may contribute to developing varicose veins:
- Prolonged standing or sitting
- Number of pregnancies
- Birth control pills / Hormone replacement therapy
- Chronic constipation
- Severity of menstrual cycles
- Sedentary lifestyle
How can I prevent getting Varicose Veins?
Since there are multiple causes of varicose veins, prevention is somewhat difficult to determine. Below are some tips that may help in the prevention of both varicose and spider veins, and if you have varicose or spider veins, these may help slow their progression.
- Elevate your legs when possible.
- Exercise daily. Walking, climbing stairs, cycling and swimming help with the calf muscle pump action to prevent blood from pooling causing varicose veins.
- Move your legs frequently. Flexing your ankles periodically will also help.
- Avoid sitting without moving legs for extended periods of time.
- Wear support compression hose. These hose tend to reduce pooling and pressure on leg veins. They may also reduce the risk of forming a deep vein blood clot.
- Maintain your ideal body weight to reduce pressure on your legs. Avoid prolonged sitting and standing.
- Avoid excessive heat on your legs, such as hot tubs and hot baths.
Are vein procedures covered by insurance?