Most people consider unsightly varicose veins to be an irritating cosmetic problem and nothing to be unduly concerned about. However, in some cases, they can indicate the presence of a deeper problem. While there are numerous harmless reasons for these damaged veins to make an appearance, they can also be telling of a more serious health condition. Before we dive into potential health issues, let’s first discuss varicose veins in a little more detail.
What are varicose veins?
Typically, varicose veins lie just below the skin’s surface and appear enlarged, twisted, and purplish. They’re caused by damaged valves and walls within the veins themselves.
When vein walls are weakened, the vein becomes bloated with trapped blood and is termed a ‘varicose’ vein.
Generally, veins deliver blood towards the heart but when vein valves are damaged, the blood flows in the wrong direction. This results in blood pooling and usually struggling to make its way out of the vein.
Varicose veins can range from being a mild cosmetic issue to becoming a more serious health concern which is why you must get regular screening if you see that you have varicose veins on your body. Should your varicose veins be an indication of a deeper problem, then it’s something you need to know about.
Who usually gets varicose veins?
It’s estimated that around 20% of adults will get varicose veins, although they appear more frequently in women. Also, more women seek medical advice about their veins, although this is often for more cosmetic reasons than medical reasons.
Certain factors increase the chance of varicose veins developing:
- Advanced age
- Standing or sitting for a long period
- Excess body weight
- Veins diseases
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Although it doesn’t happen very often, children can develop varicose veins. Should your child have varicose veins then we recommend a screening ultrasound. When they occur in children, varicose veins are often related to an underlying condition including congenital disorders such as Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome or degenerative vascular diseases.
Vascular health problems related to varicose veins
Varicose veins are for many people little more than an unsightly nuisance, and in the majority of cases, there is no need to be concerned about vascular health problems. That said, it’s still important to undergo regular screening for peace of mind and to be sure no significant health issues are developing. The presence of varicose veins can indicate underlying health issues.
Venous diseases associated with varicose veins
Swelling and pain
Although these conditions aren’t life-threatening, they’re not pleasant to live with either. Inefficient blood flow causes the build-up of pressure enabling leaks to flow into the surrounding tissue. Swelling also occurs, tightening the affected area and causing pain. The skin may become discolored and stiff over time.
Oxygen and nutrients find it difficult and often impossible to flow to areas of hardened tissue caused by leaking varicose veins. As a result, it means that open sores (ulcers) caused by poor blood flow, take longer to heal, if at all.
A blood clot is formed of blood that has solidified inside a vein. While it can dissolve on its own, in some cases it can become life-threatening and according to the CDC, as many as 100,000 people die each year from blood clots. Severe complications from blood clots in the veins include deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, stroke and heart attack.
Deep vein thrombosis
As its name suggests, deep vein thrombosis is when a blood clot forms deep within the body. Generally, they form in the legs but they can deliver in other areas as well. Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis include severe pain, cramping, swelling, skin discoloration and warm patches of skin.
This relates to a blood clot moving to the lungs and becoming a critical medical issue. The flow of blood is restricted and damages the lungs. Because the lungs are unable to deliver sufficient oxygen, other organs may be affected. This is a very dangerous condition which, if left untreated, results in death in a third of patients.
Screening for vascular issues
A vascular surgeon can diagnose and treat vein disease using non-invasive ultrasound. While the bulging veins evident on the outside of the skin may be harmless they could be a symptom of a more serious health issue. Vein assessment can rule out disease or identify its progression.
Vascular ultrasound utilises high-frequency sound waves to provide an image of veins and arteries. Real-time views show the flow of blood through the vessels and reveal where there may be a blockage or insufficient flow.
Tips for better vascular health
In many cases, varicose veins develop as a result of lifestyle choices. Once they appear, they won’t go on their own without treatment. Here are a few tips to help manage existing varicose veins and help prevent any new ones from developing.
- Don’t sit or stand for long periods
- Don’t cross your legs while sitting
- Elevate your legs above your heart when you are sitting
- Lose weight if you are overweight
- Wear compression stockings to help the blood flow back to the heart
- Drink plenty of water and eat healthy foods
- Remain active and exercise daily
Removal of cosmetically unattractive veins
The experienced team at the Midwest Institute for Non-surgical Therapy (MINT) led by Dr Goke Akinwande are skilled at screening for vein disease and assessing if varicose veins are a deeper problem. If you have any varicose veins on your body and are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, we recommend you schedule an appointment to have an assessment of your vein health. We can identify any possible vein disease and recommend a treatment plan that best meets your needs.
At our state-of-the-art vein center, we offer a variety of comfortable non-surgical therapies that are effective and fast. Why not call MINT today or schedule an appointment online at one of our 5 clinics, including the latest addition in Chicago, IL.