Varicose veins are swollen or enlarged veins that are usually blue or dark purple. Mostly occurring in the legs, these veins can be lumpy, bulging, or twisted in appearance. Other symptoms of varicose veins include aching or uncomfortable legs that can feel heavy, swollen feet and ankles, muscle cramps, dry skin, and color changes in the skin. But what happens when varicose veins are not the diagnosis but the symptom? Can these swollen veins be indicative of an underlying vascular issue?
Why Do Varicose Veins Occur?
When small valves stop working properly, veins become varicose. Healthy veins allow blood to move easily to the heart. Blood is prevented from flowing backward. There is a series of tiny valves that open and close to let the blood get through. Valves that are weakened or damaged can have blood flow away from the heart and collect in the veins, causing it to swell or become larger than normal. Age, being overweight, and old age can all cause varicose veins, but so can underlying vascular conditions.
While it’s rare, varicose veins can be caused by underlying conditions. Some of these ailment include a previous blood clot, swelling in the body, and abnormal blood vessels. It is possible for these veins to be a symptom of vascular diseases like stroke, artery disease, aortic aneurysm, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, and more. Depending on the condition, if blood is slow to move to the heart varicose veins will occur. These swollen veins can be both a symptom of a larger issue, but most of the time they are a symptom of basic aging, weight gain, and other natural occurrences.
Common Causes of Varicose Veins
There are many things that can increase your likelihood of developing varicose veins including gender, age, weight, and working at a job that involves extended periods of standing. If you are pregnant you could also be more at risk for varicose veins. Increased hormones levels during pregnancy can cause the muscular walls of the blood vessels to relax, which increases the risk of veins becoming varicose. As the womb begins to grow, varicose veins may develop. These common causes of varicose veins are much more likely than vascular disease or other underlying vascular conditions, but if you are experiencing them you should go to the doctor to make sure you do not have a larger issue that needs to be dealt with.
Treating Varicose Veins
If you do happen to have an underlying vascular issue, you should take get treatment for the condition before or while you are getting treated for the veins themselves. For the majority of people, they do not present a serious health concern. They might have an unpleasant appearance but shouldn’t affect circulation in the long-run. Most of the time, varicose veins don’t even require treatment. However, if your doctor finds treatment to be necessary, there are a few things they will do.
First, if the veins aren’t very swollen, a doctor may recommend basic things like regular exercise, elevating the area when at rest, and wearing compression stockings. If, however, the doctor needs to treat them, they may use endothermal ablation. This is a treatment where heat is used to seal the veins that are affected. Using a special type of foam, sclerotherapy closes these veins. Ligation and stripping involves surgery and removes the veins entirely.
Preventing Vascular Disease & Varicose Veins
It goes without saying that you should be eating well in moderate amounts, exercising regularly, and getting routine physicals. Other than that, to avoid varicose veins that are not caused by vascular conditions you should refrain from sitting or standing too much at one given time. Move around a lot to improve circulation and elevate legs when you are resting. A lot of people will get varicose veins but you can do your best to avoid them and their underlying causes.
While most varicose veins are not caused by underlying vascular issues, it is certainly possible. Taking care of yourself is the most important thing. If you do a better job of looking after your body in general, the likelihood that you will get a vascular condition will go down. With age, you still may get varicose veins, but at least they will not be cause by a bigger issue.