What are Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are thought to be inherited, but they can develop from any number of reasons.  For example, according to the Society for Vascular Surgery, approximately 50-55% of pregnant women in the U.S. develop varicose veins.  Varicose veins can not only be unsightly, but can be painful and can lead to more serious health problems if not treated.

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that are visible just below the surface of the skin.  They usually occur in the legs, but can form in other parts of the body.  They usually result from weak veins or weak and damaged valves in the veins, which ultimately cause blood to pool in the area of weakness and thus cause swelling.

Why do women get varicose veins during pregnancy?

Many women wonder this, and it is often a concern when ladies get pregnant.   So what is it that causes varicose veins to occur during pregnancy?  A growing fetus can cause varicose veins by putting pressure on veins, especially those in the lower extremities, like the legs. The good news is, varicose veins caused by pregnancy usually improve within 3 to 12 months after birth.

What else causes varicose veins?

                  Although a high amount of varicose veins are caused by pregnancy, there are many other causes as well.  Some of these causes include:

  • Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy and menopause
  • Obesity
  • Lack of movement
  • Family history of varicose veins
  • Increasing age (wear and tear on your valves can weaken them)
  • Gender (women are at increased risk)

How do you treat varicose veins?

Treatment of varicose veins falls into two categories, non-invasive and medical procedures. Non-invasive treatments include:

    • Medical management with daily compression stocking wear
    • Maintain a healthy weight
    • Elevate legs when resting
    • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time
    • Wear elastic support stockings
    • Eat a low-salt, high-fiber diet and regular exercise – toned muscles aid in blood circulation
    • Do not wear high-heeled shoes for long periods of time

Medical procedures for varicose veins include:

    • Sclerotherapy: the sealing off of the veins, most often done for smaller varicose veins.  This may require multiple treatments to be successful.
    • Laser treatment: Radiofrequency and laser treatments are minimally invasive procedures that result in the fading away of the vein
    • “Vein stripping” and ligation:  These are surgical procedures that involve the removal of the vein and is the treatment most common for very large varicose veins.