Varicose veins are a normal development that comes with aging, pregnancy, weight gain, or very active and very sedentary jobs. There are a number of different ways that people can prevent varicose veins from forming, and various treatment options for managing your varicose veins if you already have developed them.
What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are a type of swollen and enlarged vein which is caused by small valves inside the vein becoming weaker over time. The valves work to pump blood back up towards the heart, as it flows throughout the limbs. When the pressure against the valve becomes too much, or it has to work too hard, the valve can weaken and blood begins to pool in the skin around the vein, giving a blueish colour to the skin. These types of broken valves are particularly common inside the legs, as the extra pressure of gravity pushing the blood down towards the extremities makes the work of the valves harder.
They are most commonly seen in older populations, as the valves and veins naturally weaken and stiffen with age. Varicose veins often also form during pregnancy, when the weight of the baby and placenta put extra pressure on the veins in the pelvis and legs as the baby grows. During pregnancy the woman’s blood volume also doubles, which means the valves have to work even harder to deal with the extra blood flow. Sedentary people often also suffer from varicose veins, because the blood flows more slowly when the person is inactive, and the valves need to use extra energy to push the thicker blood back towards the heart.
Varicose veins are often painful or itchy, and can get worse and develop into blood clots or deep vein thrombosis. This is why it is vital to prevent and treat varicose veins as early as possible.
How Can Varicose Veins Be Prevented?
Varicose veins can be prevented in a number of different ways. First, make sure that you keep your weight in check, as gaining a significant amount of weight can put extra pressure on the veins. Second, if you have a sedentary lifestyle or a job that requires you to sit down for large periods of time, keep active by getting up and walking or doing exercise throughout the day as much as possible. Even a small amount of activity such as 30 minutes of walking each day can help. Finally, consider wearing compression stockings to help support your veins. Compression stockings work by putting pressure against the legs in an upward direction, with the tightest part of the stocking at the ankle and the loosest part towards the knee. This helps to support the blood flowing back towards the heart, and allows the valves in the veins to work more effectively.
What Treatments Are Available?
There are a number of varicose vein treatments available, with new techniques being developed regularly. These days, modern treatments are usually non-invasive, with only a visit to a varicose vein clinic and a short stay of a couple of hours. A common treatment is called radiofrequency ablation, which uses electricity to seal off the leaky vein. This treatment has been around for at least 10 years, and has a 98% success rate.
Another treatment involves the use of lasers to collapse the vein, called Endovenous Laser Treatment, or ELVT. ELVT takes a short amount of time, and is minimally invasive, with a small catheter and laser probe inserted into the vein using local anaesthetic and ultrasound machines. The laser heat collapses the vein walls, sealing it off and stopping blood from leaking further into the tissues.
Varicose veins are a normal part of life, but you can prevent them from forming or getting worse by taking considered steps to take care of your vein health. If you already have varicose veins, treatments are readily available to help you get back on your feet.