Most people know what varicose veins look like – they’re the ropy, swollen veins that appear on your legs, sometimes without much warning. But besides being unsightly and embarrassing, these gnarled veins are a sign of venous insufficiency or venous disease. These are issues you don’t want to ignore, so it is vital from a prevention standpoint to really understand what your veins do as well as to understand what venous disease is and how to recognize the symptoms of a potentially serious case of venous insufficiency.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
In order for our organs and body systems to function properly, they need an oxygenated blood supply to thrive. The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout our bodies via our arteries, and receives deoxygenated blood back through the veins. A healthy heart is a strong muscle, and can easily pump blood from your head to toes, but if you stop to think about the distance from your feet to your heart, that’s quite a distance for the veins to have to push those liters of blood back to the heart. Considering the fact that it’s also an uphill climb, your veins have to work hard to push gallons of pressurized blood upwards, against gravity, to make it back to your heart.
Veins are equipped with valves that keep your blood flowing only one way – up. If those valves weaken and begin to fail, this allows your blood to flow backward, causing blood to pool in your veins, instead of keeping a constant flow towards your heart. The pooled blood puts pressure on the walls of your veins, making them bulge and creating a varicose vein.
While they are certainly unattractive, varicose veins are not just a cosmetic issue. They are a sign of deeper problems in your venous system, problems that left untreated, could lead to serious health issues. Varicose veins are fairly common, as they affect over 40 million Americans each year, and are just one of several indicators of possible venous insufficiency, along with other noticeable issues such as poor circulation, spider veins, and pain or swelling in your legs.
Risk Factors for Varicose Veins
Varicose veins can affect anyone at any age, but nearly 50% of Americans over the age of 50 suffer from them, and there are several factors that raise your risk, including:
- Job – Jobs that require prolonged periods of sitting or standing
- Lifestyle -People who are sedentary, smoke, or are overweight are at a higher risk for vein issues
- Genetics – Your risk for varicose veins increases if one or both of your parents have had them
- Pregnancy – Weight gain and increased pressure on your body from pregnancy raise your risk
- Age – The probability that you will develop varicose veins increases after age 50
- Gender – More women than men tend to have varicose veins
While varicose veins can be prevented, once they appear, they won’t simply resolve on their own through lifestyle changes. Left untreated, they often continue to worsen, and can lead to more serious health problems later on.
Common Symptoms of Varicose Veins
For some people, the only indication of varicose veins or venous insufficiency is the eventual appearance of the veins. However, there are other symptoms associated with the conditions, which may include:
- Skin issues – dryness, itching, or scaliness
- Aching, burning or heaviness in your legs, especially after prolonged sitting or standing
- Swelling in your feet or ankles because of fluid buildup
- Skin darkening in your lower legs or ankles
- Skin ulcers or wounds on your legs that heal slowly
If you notice that you’ve developed varicose veins, or are suffering from any of the associated symptoms, it may be time to visit Southern Vascular Clinic for a vein consultation. Our experienced and caring team will perform a thorough exam and devise a treatment plan that is specific to your needs. Vein care is a critical element of your overall health, and we strive to ensure that you experience comprehensive care in a warm, professional environment. Call us today at 337-534-4444 to schedule an appointment.SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION TODAY