Varicose veins are a common condition that occurs when veins are overfilled with blood or when blood flows in the wrong direction. It can also happen when the veins are dilated or enlarged. Varicose veins usually have a red or bluish-purple appearance while also being somewhat painful.
One study found that about 20% of adults have varicose veins. Another study found that the condition affects more women than men. The study pointed out that 11 million men and 22 million women between the ages of 40 to 50 years old are affected by varicose veins. While they can affect anyone, research suggests that factors like pregnancy, family history, obesity, aging, and menopause can increase the risk of the condition.
Types of Varicose Veins
According to the UK’S National Health Service (NHS), there are 3 main types of varicose veins. Below is an overview of each of them:
- Telangiectasia: These are also known as “spider veins.” They usually appear in the legs or face in small clusters. Telangiectasia varicose veins are somewhat different from other types of varicose veins, as they don’t bulge.
- Trunk: These have a knobby and thick appearance that is unpleasant to look at. Trunk varicose veins can sprout from any part of the body, but, most of the time, they spring up on the ankles and legs.
- Reticular: Reticular varicose veins have a red appearance and are closely knotted together.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
Below are some symptoms you may experience if you have varicose veins:
- Swollen ankles
- Atrophy Blanche (scar-like patches that have a whitish appearance)
- Restless leg syndrome, research has shown that many people with varicose veins have RLS
- Venous eczema
- Leg cramps when you stand up
- Legs feeling heavy after working out
- Presence of lumpy, swollen, or twisted veins that have a dark purple or blue appearance
- An injury in the affected region that bleeds longer than normal
Diagnosis of Varicose Veins
To determine if you have varicose veins, your doctor will carry out the following tests:
- Ultrasound: This is a non-surgical test that utilizes sound waves at high frequencies. With this test, your health care practitioner will be able to get a clear picture of how blood is flowing in the affected region.
- Physical Exam: Here, your doctor will take a close look at your legs while you are standing and sitting to check for visible signs of varicose veins.
- Venogram: During this test, your health care practitioner will inject a special dye into your legs. Next, they will take x-rays of the area. The goal of the test is to help your doctor see how blood is flowing in the affected area.
How to Treat Varicose Veins
Before recommending any aggressive treatment, your doctor may encourage you to make lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, using compression stockings, and avoiding standing for too long. If you are unbothered by the veins and don’t experience any discomfort, your doctor might not recommend any treatment. However, if you experience severe pain in the region and certain symptoms like swelling and skin discoloration, they might recommend the following:
- Surgery: Your doctor will recommend surgery if the veins are too large.
- Endovenous Laser Treatment: A laser device that shoots energy beams is used to shrink and close the bulging veins.
- Sclerotherapy: A special chemical is injected into the varicose veins during this procedure. The chemical closes them up. The veins will gradually fade after a couple of weeks.
How to Manage Varicose Veins
Some at-home remedies that can be used are:
- Grape Seed Extract: A study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) shows that consuming grape seed extract may reduce some of the symptoms associated with varicose veins. Individuals on blood-thinning drugs shouldn’t take this extract as it can increase the risk of bleeding.
- Flavonoids: Eating foods rich in flavonoids, like garlic, onions, broccoli, spinach, and bell peppers, can help improve blood circulation and shrink varicose veins.
- Plant Extract: A 2010 study found that butcher’s bloom extract and sea pin extract can help reduce leg swelling, a symptom associated with varicose veins.
- What increases the risk of having varicose veins? As pointed out by health experts, people who are obese, above 50, pregnant, and those who stand for long hours are more likely to develop this condition.
- When should I consult a doctor? You should seek medical attention promptly if you are experiencing severe pain in the affected region.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!