Varicose Veins are a very troubling concern for much of the population and have been extremely challenging for some. Varicose veins arise due to faulty vein leaflet functioning. Normally, veins contain blood that has already traveled to the skin or organs and needs to return to the heart. Normally the heart keeps the blood pumping through the vessels, but the pressure from the heart is not as noticeable in the veins. Because the pressure is much lower in veins, especially far away from the heart like in the legs, the veins contain leaflets or valves that can close and catch blood, which prevents all of the blood from pooling in our feet . In some cases these leaflets can get faulty and blood pools more than normal. In these cases, it can cause the veins to twist and bulge as they attempt to hold the increase in blood in their small diameter. This is the cause of varicose veins. In these cases, varicose veins appear as swollen or twisted veins on the surface of the skin, normally located on the lower calves and shins, and can be very painful at times. They can be flesh-colored or have a more reddish or purplish hue. Varicose veins can be seen in women who are pregnant, or are often attributed to aging, obesity, or family history.
Many of the veins that are affected are superficial veins. Surgical treatments involve removing the superficial veins, and blood flow is simply redirected to other veins. There are multiple non-surgical treatments that can help varicose veins as well. Basic treatments include exercise, elevating the legs, stockings.
In many cases, very simple changes can help significantly with unsightly varicose veins. If you have a job that involves mostly standing, taking breaks during the day is important. You should also try getting more supportive shoes and avoiding heels, which can both be very helpful. It is also important to not wear tight clothing that can impede blood flow at your hips or in your legs and further obstruct blood flow. Starting regular exercise and a healthy diet can help improve blood flow and decrease the effects of varicose veins, especially important in a person who is overweight, but very helpful with everyone (). Given that varicose veins are caused by pooling blood, one thing that can help is elevating the legs, usually by resting several pillows under the ankles so the legs are equal height or higher than the level of the heart. This is only a temporary relief, but can help significantly with symptoms of swelling, discoloration, and pain. Elastic compression stockings can be very effective as well. These stockings are worn to help squeeze the veins to encourage upward blood flow through the legs. Compression stockings should be fitted, but not painful when worn, and should be worn all day long to help encourage blood flow.
All of these non-surgical therapies are more temporary fixes then long term solutions. Except in the case of pregnancy, varicose veins are not usually reversible and will typically reoccur. If the above solutions have been tried and are not working or symptoms have worsened, in time varicose veins may require more permanent interventions. There are several long-term interventions that may help, but these are all surgical, though most of them are quick and outpatient procedures. Sclerotherapy is a non-surgical treatment that involves injecting a medication into veins that decreases their size and eventually closes them off. Blood flow is then redirected to deeper veins and the superficial veins are no longer swollen and irritated. Surgeries can be done by laser, catheter, or open procedure to remove the affected veins, and again blood flow is redirected to other veins.