Varicose Veins – Are they dangerous, or merely unsightly?

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Varicose veins are basically just enlarged veins.  The smaller varicose veins, usually red  are called ‘spider’ veins.  Because the pressure on the veins in your lower body is greater when you sit or stand, larger varicose veins almost always appear on the legs, ankles, and feet.

To many people, varicose veins are merely unsightly, and nothing more.  Unfortunately, some varicose veins cause pain and discomfort, and need attention.  In others varicose veins may be an indicator of some really serious problems or may indicate the individuals likelihood of developing circulatory problems.  Only your doctor can tell if your veins are a cosmetic problem or an indicator of trouble.

There are several possible causes for varicose veins.  Blood is pumped by the heart and circulates throughout the body.  Because of gravity, it is more difficult for the veins in the lower part of the body – specifically the feet, ankles, and legs – to pump the blood upwards.  Muscle action within the legs, the elasticity of the veins themselves, and tiny valves within the veins, all help move the blood upwards.  If the veins or valves are damaged, or lose their elasticity, the blood tends to pool, and as a result, the veins stretch and bulge.

Several factors increase the likelihood of varicose veins.   Age may cause the veins to lose their elasticity.  Pregnancy may increase the blood flow to the lower body, but not increase the flow upwards, causing pooling and enlarging of the veins.  Inactivity, and obesity lead to a poor return of blood and increased possibility of engorged veins.  There also seems to be a genetic factor involved.  Women more often than men, suffer from varicose veins.

Anyone who has varicose veins should discuss these with their family physician, especially if the veins cause any pain or discomfort.  Danger signs include a sudden increase in pain, a sudden swelling of the vein or leg, bleeding from the vein.  These factors can indicate that a blood clot has formed deep within your leg.  Any open sores that develop on the surface of the skin, also need immediate medical attention.  These can turn into ulcers and may quickly become infected.

For varicose veins that are of concern, your physician will recommend prompt action.  This may include injections into the vein to scar the interior and cause it to close, or laser or radio-frequency treatments that do much the same thing.  He/her may also suggest a minor surgery option that removes the damaged vein.  Surgery is usually reserved for more serious cases.  Discuss all options with your physician..

There are several treatments for varicose veins which are not causing any major concern.  If there are no dangerous symptoms, your doctor may suggest options such as losing weight, becoming more active, elevating the leg on a regular basis, or wearing compressing stocking.  Stockings must be supportive, but not too tight.  Ask your physician or pharmacist for help in choosing the right size.

There is no magic cure for varicose veins, but there are measure that you can take to help avoid them.  You should keep your weight down, remain active, and avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time.  When sitting, keep your feet flat on the floor, and elevate your feet and legs whenever you have the opportunity.

Whenever you have concerns about your health, always consult your family physician to prevent small problems from becoming large ones.

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