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Friday, January 24, 2014

Treating and Preventing Varicose Veins


What are they?
Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that are usually dark blue or purple. Varicose veins are most commonly found in the legs, particularly the calves, but they can form in any part of the body. A healthy working vein has a one-way valve that carries blood from the body to the heart, keeping the blood from stagnating or flowing back. An unhealthy vein, in this case a varicose vein, occurs when the valves within the vein become weakened or damaged, allowing the blood to flow back toward the heart and accumulate in the vein(s). When this occurs, the vein becomes enlarged and swollen, making it varicose.

Signs and Symptoms
Common symptoms can include:
  • Bulging, swelling and/or twisting of the vein(s)
  • A weak feeling in legs and muscles
  • Cramping pain in legs when resting
  • Heavy limbs
  • Itching or aching of the affected area

Severe case complications:
  • In severe cases, the varicose vein may rupture from the thinning of the skin above the affected vein.
  • The affected veins are more susceptible to ulcers.
  • Blood clots may develop in deep varicose veins.
  • The affected veins are prone to inflammation, also known as phlebitis.

Varicose veins are very common and may occur anywhere in the human body. When a vein becomes less flexible and weak, the valves within the vein become faulty. Many theories exist as to why varicosities occur in the veins, but overall the consensus is that defective valves within the vein are the leading cause. That being said, here are a few other factors that may contribute to the development of varicose veins:
  • Age: Varicose veins usually develop between the ages of 30 and 60 years and tend to worsen with time.
  • Genetics: Varicose veins often run in families.
  • Sex: Recent studies have shown that females are more susceptible to varicose veins than males.
  • Pregnancy: A pregnant woman has much more blood in her body, which puts additional pressure on the circulatory system, raising the risk of forming varicose veins.
  • Excess weight: Excess fat places added pressure on the veins of the lower limbs, making it easier for varicose veins to develop.
  • Hormonal factors: A change in hormone levels can cause the walls of the blood vessels to relax and expand, which causes the vein to become weak and more vulnerable to varicosities.
  • Chronic constipation: Constant pushing may contribute to the development of rectal varicose veins, also known as hemorrhoids.
  • Lifestyle: Experts say that some jobs that require standing and walking for prolonged periods of time, which places extra pressure on the veins of the lower limbs, can contribute to the formation of varicose veins. Gravity pulls blood down to your legs and feet when you are standing up or sitting down. The veins have to work extra hard to get that blood back up to the heart, and some of those veins can wear out over time.

Varicose veins can be tender, painful and, more importantly, unsightly, unwanted and just plain annoying. There is no guaranteed method for preventing varicose veins, but there are steps you can take now to help decrease your chances of developing them.

First and foremost, daily exercise is the best way to get your blood flowing and moving. A happy and healthy body keeps your veins happy and healthy, too! Keep moving and your body will love you for it. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight, elevating your legs when resting and avoiding constipation are all good habits to form.

If you already have varicose veins, it’s good to know that they are harmless. Although they may not look pleasant, they usually do not require treatment.  Exercising, losing weight, avoiding tight clothes, elevating your legs as much as possible and avoiding long periods of standing or sitting can all ease the pain and also help prevent varicose veins from worsening.

If you don’t like the way varicose veins look or if you experience extreme swelling, aching, discomfort or complications, like ulcers, treatment might be necessary. Here are a few options for treatment of varicose veins:
  1. Compression stockings
  2. Sclerotherapy
  3. Laser treatment
  4. Mini-stab avulsion
  5. Vein stripping
  6. Radiofrequency ablation
  7. Endoscopic vein surgery
  8. Ambulatory phlebectomy

Be cautious when it comes to your treatment options for varicose veins. Advertisements claiming “painless” or “permanent” methods to remove veins may not live up to those claims. As always, it is important to communicate with your doctor in full detail about the health risks, side effects and costs of surgery.

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