What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins, also known as spider veins, are superficial (on the skin surface) enlarged veins that curl and twist, usually with age. Usually, they form on the body’s lower extremities, like the legs, but they can form in any part of the body. However, varicose veins can develop at any age.
Varicose veins are caused when blood pressure increases in the veins. Inside the veins, there are valves that move blood in one direction towards the heart. When those valves become weakened, damaged, or relaxed, blood collects in the veins, causing them to enlarge.
What can cause varicose veins? How can they be prevented?
Like many other health conditions, varicose veins can be an inherited trait. However, certain risk factors can increase blood pressure in the veins and increase the chances of developing varicose veins. Factors include inactivity, being overweight or obese, injury, pregnancy, smoking, aging, hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptive, or even being female.
Although factors like genetics, being female, or age are out of our control, others can be managed and/or improved. Staying active is key to a healthy blood flow. Remember, staying active does not mean doing an intense exercise routine or running 5 miles in one day, simply walking, stretching, and adding more steps into your daily routine can make a significant difference. Weight is also a factor that can be managed more so with the help of a nutritionist or health professional. A great place to start is by integrating whole foods, lean proteins, fiber-rich goods, and healthy fats into your meals and reducing the consumption of highly processed foods high in sugar and oils.
Varicose veins are on the skin surface, which can usually be harmless. If left untreated, they can affect the deep veins. One condition that can develop is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can cause blood clots to build, which can cause swelling, pain, and redness in the leg, or it can travel to the lungs and even be fatal.
How are varicose veins treated?
Fortunately, varicose vein treatment can be accessible to many. One of the cheapest and easiest ways to prevent the continuation of varicose vein formation can simply be elevating your feet for 15 mins a couple of times per day, as well as wearing compression socks if you are sitting or standing for long periods of time. However, when it comes to a severe point, or if you want to eliminate them for esthetic reasons, there are therapies like sclerotherapy, thermal ablation, vein stripping, or microphlebectomy. But as mentioned before, speak to your healthcare professional about what treatment would suit your specific needs.