San Diego’s mild climate allows for wearing shorts nearly every day. But if you have varicose veins, you’ll probably still reach for the pants or tights.
Although not considered a life-threatening condition, varicose veins are known for their unsightly appearance and can cause symptoms such as burning, itching or aching pain.
“Varicose veins are caused by blood vessels that become enlarged from failure to properly circulate blood back toward the heart,” explains Dr. Thomas Terramani, a vascular surgeon affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “Unlike normal veins, which return blood from the legs back to the heart through a series of properly working valves, varicose veins lack valves that function normally, causing blood to pool in the legs and resulting in dilated veins.”
Vulnerable to varicose veins
Genetics can contribute to your likelihood of developing varicose veins; however, women are particularly vulnerable because certain hormones — estrogen and progesterone — play a significant role in the development of the condition.
Other causes of varicose veins include:
- History of inflammation or thrombosis of the veins
- Local traumatic injury
- Advanced age
- Occupations requiring long periods of sitting or standing
Vanquishing varicose veins
Left untreated, complications can occur in which your varicose veins develop chronic ulcers or become inflamed and develop clots. However, modern, minimally invasive techniques offer an alternative to the traditional surgical treatment of varicose veins.
One procedure in treating varicose veins includes radiofrequency or laser ablation, an outpatient procedure that eliminates the problematic vein without a surgical incision. Sclerotherapy is another option. The procedure uses a needle to inject a salt solution into the vein, causing it to shrink. While sclerotherapy is an effective treatment, it should be considered temporary because varicose veins are often a progressive condition that can develop in other veins.
Most of the symptoms of varicose veins can be relieved by wearing compression support stockings. If properly fitted, these stockings compress your varicose veins and reduce the effects of blood pooling in your lower leg.
Possible to prevent?
Unfortunately, varicose veins can’t be prevented. But if genetics indicate that you are likely to develop them, there are things you can do to minimize the condition’s impact:
- Stay active – Avoid sitting for long periods of time, whether at home or work. Taking a 20- to 30-minute walk each day can help your body maintain proper venous circulation.
- Don’t smoke – Research finds that varicose veins are more common in smokers because of the effect smoking has on regulating fibrin, a blood-clotting protein.
- Lose weight – Weighing more than 20 percent of your ideal weight puts more pressure on your vein system.
- Put your feet up – Resting your legs on footstools when you sit or putting a pillow under your feet when you sleep are a couple of simple ways to keep your legs elevated and reduce venous pressure.
“If you have cosmetic concerns about varicose veins or are experiencing aching, throbbing or increased pain as a result of varicose veins, talk with your doctor,” says Dr. Terramani. “Treatments are available that are effective, safe and don’t usually require a hospital stay. Also, basic lifestyle choices, like exercise and quitting smoking, can ease your symptoms and prevent varicose veins from developing or worsening.”