Varicose veins, ranging from the blue splotches of spider veins to the thick, ropey and twisted dark varicose veins that can make standing and walking painful, have much in common. They’re unsightly. They can be painful. If left untreated, they can progress to serious health problems. They’re very common: 20 percent of all adults, and 50 percent of adults over 50, experience varicose veins, predominantly women.
Varicose veins are enlarged veins in the legs near the surface of the skin, ranging from tiny to large. Most people associate varicose veins with prominent, swollen, twisted, and ropelike veins wrapping their legs, often dark blue in color – and often quite painful.
Some people do not have any troublesome symptoms at first. Mild symptoms may include:
- Swelling in your feet and ankles
- Heaviness, burning, aching, tiredness, or pain in your legs, particularly when you stand or sit for a long time
- Itchy skin over the vein
More serious symptoms may include:
- Leg swelling
- Swelling and calf pain after you sit or stand for long periods of time
- Skin changes, such as skin color or dry, thin or scaling skin
- Open sores or excessive bleeding after a minor injury
But why do some people get varicose veins, while others do not? Varicose veins can be caused simply by advancing age or pregnancy. They’re caused by weakened valves in the leg veins that flow blood back to your heart. When the valves weaken, blood pools and builds pressure in the leg veins, causing them to swell, expand and twist as the walls of the veins are weakened.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the following factors increase your risk of developing varicose veins:
- Age. The risk of varicose veins increases with age. Aging causes wear and tear on the valves in your veins that help regulate blood flow. Eventually, that wear causes the valves to allow some blood to flow back into your veins where it collects instead of flowing up to your heart.
- Sex. Women are more likely to develop the condition. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, premenstruation or menopause may be a factor because female hormones tend to relax vein walls. Taking hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills may increase your risk of varicose veins.
- Family history. If other family members had varicose veins, there’s a greater chance you will too.
- Obesity. Being overweight puts added pressure on your veins.
- Standing or sitting for long periods of time. Your blood doesn’t flow as well if you’re in the same position for long periods.
The weakened valves and veins are prone to clots or hemorrhaging, which is why treatment is so important.
However, not all varicose veins require clinical treatment. In mild cases, home treatment may be all you require to ease your symptoms and keep the varicose veins from getting worse. You can:
- Exercise to strengthen the muscles and veins of the legs
- Wear compression stockings to improve blood flow and limit vein swelling
- Prop up your legs to allow the blood to flow out of the legs easier.
- Avoid long periods of sitting or standing.
Most insurers typically cover treatment of the more serious, symptomatic varicose veins; some do not cover treatment for spider veins, considering it a cosmetic procedure.
If your diagnosis indicates that you need a specific treatment, our staff will submit all relevant information to your insurance company for pre-authorization, or provide you with the approximate cost of treatment.
Call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options.