Varicose veins: What are they? - Peripheral Vascular Associates
Varicose veins: What are they? - Peripheral Vascular Associates

Varicose veins: What are they?


Most commonly seen in the legs, varicose veins can appear red, blue or even flesh toned. Varicose veins are veins that have become enlarged, swollen, bulging, or twisted, and happen when your veins are not functioning properly, due to venous reflux disease, also known as venous insufficiency. Let’s explore what that means.

While your arteries carry blood away from the heart and distribute it to the rest of your body, it is the veins’ responsibility to bring the blood back and return it to the heart. How? Well, when you walk, the muscles in your leg squeeze your veins, helping the blood flow back into the heart, with assistance from one-way valves within the veins that promote this process. But when those one-way valves fail, the blood backs up and begins to collect in the veins, instead of continuing towards your heart like it’s supposed to. This is called venous insufficiency, which is also known as venous reflux disease. Learn more about the condition here.

As a result, your veins become engorged with blood, and enlarge. This happens because the veins in our legs are the farthest from the heart, and gravity makes it much more difficult for the blood to flow back upward. This can result in varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency, accompanied by a variety of symptoms.

Common causes of varicose veins

Potential causes of varicose veins include:

    • Standing or sitting for long periods of time
    • Obesity
    • Pregnancy
    • Family history of varicose veins

Varicose veins can cause more than just aesthetic concerns, as some cases can develop complications leading to leg pain and swelling, ulcers, bleeding, or blood clots. If left untreated, they can become worse.

Symptoms associated with varicose veins

Symptoms experienced with varicose veins can include pain, achiness, swelling, heaviness, or itching over the vein. More serious symptoms of varicose veins can include bleeding, severe leg swelling, skin changes and open sores. Learn more about what vascular pain feels and how to identify it like here.

Getting your varicose veins diagnosed

In order to properly diagnose, your doctor may want to perform an ultrasound to check your blood flow. This is a painless and noninvasive test that uses high-frequency sound waves, allowing the doctor to see how the blood is flowing in your veins, locate the problem areas, and decide the best way to treat them.

How to care for and treat varicose veins

          • The method of treatment will depend on your symptoms, as well as the size and location of the varicose vein. Some methods of care and relief include:

          • Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time
          • Keeping the legs elevated as much as possible to help reduce the effects of gravity and prevent blood from pooling in your veins
          • Stay active – Regular, low-impact exercise helps to increase blood flow circulation, allowing it to move freely throughout your legs. Walking and swimming are two examples.
          • Wearing compression stockings or medical-grade support socks can help improve circulation and reduce discomfort.

Minimally invasive treatment options can be relatively painless, with little to no recovery time needed. These include:

          • Endovenous ablation therapy, which uses heat and radiofrequency waves to close off the vein
          • Sclerotherapy, which uses a chemical injection to close off the vein so that it no longer appears
          • Phlebectomy, a technique to remove the vein
          • Additional forms of ablation therapy are also available

Getting the right help matters

Making the right choice for care is paramount to properly diagnosing, treating, and improving these conditions. At PVA, our highly-specialized team of blood-circulation experts are the leaders in vascular care since 1975. We specialize in outpatient treatment of varicose veins, venous stasis wounds, reticular veins, spider veins and more, using the most modern and medically advanced techniques. Our vascular specialists will determine the best treatment option for you based on the severity of your condition. Give us a call for more information or to request an appointment today.

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