Varicose veins often create more than cosmetic issues. They can result in a number of medical complications and cause discomfort so severe that it disrupts normal daily activities. There is no surefire way to prevent these troublesome vessels. However, understanding how they form and taking advantage of suggestions from a vein doctor can help keep new veins from developing.
Why Varicose Veins Form
As many as 25 million adults in the United States have varicose veins, according to Cedars-Sinai®. A majority of them are women.
Many factors contribute to the likelihood that an individual will develop this problem. However, its actual cause is the presence of leaky one-way valves in veins, primarily in the legs. The function of leg veins is to transport blood from the extremities back to the heart.
When valves become damaged or weak from aging or other factors, blood leaks downward and pools instead of moving upward. As pressure rises, the vessels enlarge and can become varicose veins, the University of California San Francisco Department of Surgery (UCSF) indicates.
Prevention Suggestions From a Vein Doctor
The Mayo Clinic states that nothing can completely prevent the development of varicose veins. However, patients can make a number of lifestyle changes to improve their muscle tone and circulation to lower the risk of new vessels forming:
- Getting more exercise. Movement helps blood move through the veins.
- Sheding excess pounds. Losing weight improves blood flow. It also eases the level of pressure in veins.
- Steering clear of high heels. Shoes with lower heels help tone muscles in the calves. This in turns helps blood move through veins.
- Elevating legs. Raising them whenever possible while sleeping, sitting, or resting is beneficial. The most helpful level is one above the heart.
- Altering standing or sitting position. It’s important to avoid either for long stretches and to take periodic breaks. Avoiding crossing the legs improves circulation.
- Nixing tight clothing. It constricts the body and impairs circulation. Clothes that are tight around the waist, legs, or upper thighs are the worst culprits.
- Wearing compression stockings. They exert gentle pressure on legs to help decrease swelling and prevent blood pooling. According to UCSF, they are available as pantyhose, prescription items, and over-the-counter products. Each exerts a different amount of pressure.
When these changes fail to prevent new varicose veins from forming or to create improvement in existing veins, a vein specialist can offer a number of treatment options. The most common include:
- Sclerotherapy for smaller varicose veins and spider veins
- Microsclerotherapy for small spider veins and very small varicose vessels
- Laser surgery
- Endovenous ablation
- Endoscopic vein surgery
- Ambulatory phlebectomy
These days, doctors very seldom use the oldest treatment, vein stripping and ligation. They reserve its use for patients with very severe varicose veins.