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Bulging Varicose Veins

Overview

If you have enlarged bluish-purple or red veins popping out on your legs, then you could have varicose veins. Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins located just underneath the skin’s surface.

For many people, varicose veins are simply a cosmetic concern. For other people, varicose veins can cause aching pain and discomfort.  Unfortunately, if left untreated, varicose veins can sometimes lead to more serious health problems.

Treatment may involve lifestyle measures or procedures by your doctor to close or remove veins.

Varicose veins are more common than you might imagine.

“By the age of 50, nearly 40% of women and 20% of men will have some significant leg vein problem,”

Says Dr. Cheryl McDonald, a physician at National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Visual Signs

Often varicose veins don’t cause any pain. Instead they simply present with visible signs including:

  • Veins which are dark purple or blue

  • Swollen, twisted veins that look like ropy cords on your legs

  • Skin discoloration or thickening around a varicose vein

pain leg

Symptoms

Varicose veins can cause discomfort, pain, or other symptoms, such as:

  • Burning, throbbing, and muscle cramping in your lower legs

  • Worsening pain after sitting or standing for a long time

  • An achy or heavy sensation in your legs

  • Swelling in your lower legs

  • Itching around your veins

Serious Complications

Serious complications associated with varicose veins (which require immediate medical attention) include:

Ulcers

Painful ulcers may form on the skin near varicose veins, particularly near the ankles. A discolored spot on the skin usually appears before an ulcer forms. See your doctor immediately if you suspect you've developed an ulcer.

Blood clots

Occasionally, veins deep within the legs become enlarged. In such cases, the affected leg may become painful and swell. Any persistent leg pain or swelling warrants timely medical attention because it may indicate a blood clot — a condition known as thrombophlebitis.

Bleeding

Occasionally, veins very close to the skin may burst. This usually causes only minor bleeding. But any bleeding requires medical attention.

Models

When to seek a Vein Specialist

Lifestyle measures — such as exercise, elevating your legs or wearing compression stockings — can help you ease the pain of varicose veins and may prevent them from getting worse. But if you're concerned about how your veins look, and believe that lifestyle measures haven't stopped your condition from progressing, then schedule a Free Venous Disease Screening at Dr. Veins.

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Cause and Disease Progression

Varicose veins are caused by faulty valves that make blood pool in the veins. This in turn makes these veins bulge out. Although varicose veins most often occur in the legs, they can also appear in other places.

The veins in your legs have a tough job. They must move blood a long distance back to your heart—and work against gravity to do it.

Here is a little refresher on your circulatory system:  Your heart pumps oxygenated blood out through arteries to your organs and other tissues. Once your body uses the oxygen, the blood returns back to the heart through your veins. Then it’s pumped to your lungs to pick up more oxygen before being sent around your body again.

cause and progression of veins to varicose veins

Healthy veins have one-way valves that let blood flow forward. The valves then close to keep blood from leaking backward. When a valve doesn’t function properly, blood can flow back down the vein. This can cause the blood to pool in the vein and prevent it from returning to the heart. Eventually, blood pooling in the veins stretches them out—creating the swollen, bulging veins that can be seen and felt through the skin.

Blood can pool in both large and small veins. When blood pools in small blood vessels, or capillaries, they’re called spider veins. Spider veins usually appear on your face or legs. They’re very thin—like a spider web—and can be red or blue. Spider veins don’t usually bulge out like larger varicose veins. They can be a cosmetic issue, but don’t normally cause bigger problems like varicose veins can.

Over time, larger varicose veins can become problematic. They can cause symptoms like itching, achiness, heaviness, and swelling in the legs. If left untreated, the pressure inside the vein can further weaken the valve’s functioning. That can lead to chronic changes in the skin and tissues, including open sores or ulcers and hard, thickened skin.

Stage 1 - spider veins

Spider Veins

Stage 2 - Reticular Varicose Veins

Reticular Varicose Veins

Stage 3 - Venous nodes

Venous Nodes

Stage 4 - Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Stage 5 - Trophic Ulcers or Varicose Eczema

Trophic Ulcers or Varicose Eczema

Risk Factors

The following factors increase your risk of developing varicose veins:

Risk of developing varicose veinsRisk of developing varicose veins
Varicose veins risk - Age

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.

Varicose veins risk - Gender

Gender

Women are more likely to develop the varicose veins. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, pre-menstruation or menopause may be a contributing factor because female hormones tend to relax vein walls. Hormone treatments, such as birth control pills, may also increase your risk of varicose veins.

Varicose veins risk - Pregnancy

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the volume of blood in your body increases. Although this change supports the growing fetus, it also can produce an unfortunate side effect — enlarged veins in your legs. Hormonal changes during pregnancy may also play a role.

Varicose veins risk - Family history

Family history

If other family members had varicose veins, there's a greater chance you will too.

Varicose veins risk - Obesity

Obesity

Being overweight puts added pressure on your veins.

Varicose veins risk - Standing or sitting for long periods of time

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.

Good News

The good news is varicose veins are a treatable medical condition. A qualified health care provider can usually diagnose them with a combination of a physical examination and an ultrasound. Other tests may also be used to more fully evaluate the problem.

Treatment depends upon the severity of the problem and the options range from lifestyle changes to medical procedures.

If you are overweight or obese, then weight loss can help combat varicose veins. Being heavy adds pressure on the veins that can make it even harder for the blood to get back to the heart. Being active and using your muscles can help push blood back up towards the heart.

If lifestyle changes aren’t enough, then you may need a procedure. Talk with your health care provider about your options.

Tab 1
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Lifestyle Changes For Varicose Veins

DO

TO DO

WEAR COMPRESSION  STOCKINGS

These create gentle pressure up the leg and help reduce swelling.

DO

TO DO

PUT YOUR LEGS UP

Keep your legs raised when sitting, resting, or sleeping - above the level of your heart if possible.

DON'T

DONT DO

DON'T WEAR TIGHT CLOTHING

Especially around your waist, upper thighs, and legs. The exception is when your doctor recommends compression stockings.

DO

TO DO

CONSIDER LOSING WEIGHT

Losing weight can improve blood flow and ease the pressure on your veins.

DO

TO DO

GET ACTIVE!

Move your legs to improve muscle tone. Get up and walk around every 30 minutes.

DON'T

DONT DO

DON'T SIT CROSS-LEGGED

When sitting, avoid crossing your legs.

Looking for help with some of these Lifestyle changes? We’ve got you covered with special access to medical weight loss programs and premium compression stockings.  Give us a call today!

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