What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are swollen veins that can be dark blue or purple, often having a lumpy, swollen appearance. They are especially common in the calves, but can occur anywhere in the body. Varicose veins often happen in the legs because that is where the pressure of walking and standing builds up. Both men and women can get varicose veins, however they are 2 to 3 times more common among women than among men. They affect 1 in 3 adults.
Varicose veins are often uncomfortable. The condition can cause itching, restlessness, pain and swelling in the legs and ankles. As well as being painful, the blue or purple twisted appearance of veins in the legs can cause feelings of self-consciousness.
Why do varicose veins happen?
Varicose veins develop when tiny valves in the veins don’t work properly. A healthy vein pumps blood smoothly through to the heart. Small valves in the veins open and close to let the blood through, keeping it flowing in the right direction. If these valves become damaged or get weak due to stretching or swelling in the vein, blood can no longer flow through efficiently. The blood builds up or even flows backwards, causing varicose veins.
For reasons not fully understood, the walls of some people’s veins are thinner than others, meaning they develop varicose veins more easily. Aging is also associated with the stretching and thinning of the vein walls, making older people more prone to the condition.
Don’t leave it too late!
Don’t mistake varicose veins for a purely cosmetic problem – if not dealt with in a timely way they can cause further damage. A varicose vein on the surface of the skin indicates that there are difficulties with blood circulation below the surface. A delay in dealing with varicose veins can create the risk of blood clots, which can be very serious.
Varicose veins are also associated with painful open sores on the legs, known as leg ulcers. It is estimated that up to half a million UK residents suffer from ulcers.
Pre-emptive care for varicose veins
Varicose veins may develop for several reasons. Although you can’t do anything about your genetics or your age, there are things you can do to help prevent varicose veins becoming a problem:
- Ensure you get enough exercise
A healthy amount of exercise every day will not only contribute to your health, it will help you maintain a healthy weight. Carrying more weight than you need to puts extra pressure on your veins so they have to work harder than they should to send blood back to your heart. This extra pressure on your vein valves makes them more likely to get damaged.
Exercise like walking or swimming is especially helpful, as this type of exercise helps your circulation.
- Keep moving
Regular movement keeps your blood circulating. Standing for a long time makes it more difficult for blood to flow around your body, so ensure you keep up the physical movement and exercise will not only oxygenate your brain, it will keep the blood flowing around your body.
- Support your legs
Compression stockings are available at most pharmacies. These tights support your legs by holding them firmly, helping prevent veins from swelling and supporting your leg muscles.
- Remember your feet
They’re far away at the other end of your body from your head, but that’s no excuse for forgetting your feet. Here are some simple foot and leg exercises that may help prevent varicose veins:
- Rotate each foot ten times one way, then ten times back the other way
- Bend and stretch your feet regularly, pointing your toe up, then down
If you already have varicose veins, there are various treatment options that you can look into. Surgery, chemical treatments, and laser treatment are some of the most common. Call a provider today and look into which treatment option may be best for you.