Varicose Veins: A Cosmetic Issue or a Sign of a Serious Medical Problem?

You love your daily walk, but you face an increasingly worrying dilemma. Should you or should you not go out in shorts? If you do, you’re afraid people will notice the bunches of squiggly veins down the back of your calves. For ladies used to stepping out in dresses, varicose veins rob you of a vital part of your self-expression.

Many people with varicose veins prefer to hide their legs behind leggings or pants, but that doesn’t address the condition. While the problem is merely cosmetic for some, others suffer the condition with more than a little discomfort. For some individuals, things are even worse; the swelling extends to their ankles and comes with moderate to severe pain. The question therefore arises: are varicose veins a medical problem that should worry you, or is it just a superficial burden you can try to ignore?

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are a condition that causes the unbecoming blue veins described above. They appear as a mass of twisted or bunched up veins that seem to be right beneath the skin, often on the legs and feet. At times they can attack veins that are tucked deep beneath the skin surface. Though you won’t have the blue squiggles on the skin in such a case, you could be in for a bit aching and swelling.

Also known as spider veins, this condition affects more than 40 million people within the United States. But what causes it? Varicose veins occur when veins are unable to function as they should when delivering deoxygenated blood back to the heart.

Usually, the veins work in a peristaltic motion, relying on neighboring muscles and a valve-like mechanism to push blood up and shut alternatively. This motion moves blood up and prevent it from flowing back. The trouble begins when instead of blood moving onwards, it collects above one of the vein’s “shut” valves, creating a sort of pool within the vein. This happens more easily with the veins nearer the skin surface as they have fewer muscles around them.

If you put extra pressure on your leg muscles by standing for long periods, this could lead to varicose veins. Being overweight or pregnant can also subject your veins to additional strain, leading them to malfunction. Adopting a lifestyle of low physical activity can contribute to the muscles being in poor condition, leading to varicose veins. Other factors, such as genetic predisposition, are beyond our control, but if you have a family history of varicose veins, you need to be extra careful.

Are Varicose Veins a Problem for My Health?

As discussed earlier, apart from rare cases where there is some heaviness in the legs and aching, varicose veins are a mostly cosmetic issue. However, this seemingly skin-deep problem can lead to more severe problems if left unaddressed. Varicose veins, particularly when found deeper in the leg, can lead to a blood clot or deep-vein thrombosis (DVT). In such a case, you need to urgently begin looking into ways of managing the problem before things get worse.

DVT will manifest itself as painful swelling in one leg that’s covered by warm, swollen skin. If veins around your legs, or wherever the clot has traveled to, are hard and painful to touch, this is a sure sign of DVT. A blood clot can lead to a heart attack or a stroke, as it denies vital body organs a steady supply of oxygen-rich blood. Such adverse effects are more likely to happen when the clot travels from the legs to more sensitive parts of the body like the lungs.

How Can I Treat My Varicose Veins?

Even if varicose veins, or spider veins, are not troubling you beyond preventing you from putting on your choice of clothing, you will probably be interested in what you can do to get rid of them. You will be glad to hear many vein treatment processes can help deal with this issue.

One of them is ambulatory phlebectomy, in which small incisions are made on the skin.  If you’re opposed to surgery, you can opt for the endovenous ablation of the veins. This is just a fancy term for burning and closing the troublesome veins.

Before beginning any of these courses of treatment, a thorough review of your medical history needs to be done. You need to let your doctor know if you’re taking any anti-inflammatory drugs, for instance.

There’s Hope for Varicose Victims

There may be no final cure for varicose veins, but there are several ways in which the condition can be managed. You don’t have to surrender your favorite dresses or shorts. With treatment options ranging from surgical to non-surgical, you can manage the problem without exposing yourself to further risk. But before you begin any course of treatment, remember to consult your doctor.

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