Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are enlarged veins that lie just beneath the surface of your skin. They most commonly occur in the legs. They can be visible, bulging, bluish cords or can be invisible if they are slightly deeper, closer to the muscle layer. These are a result of gravity and the pressure thats caused on the lower body from standing and walking upright just like Venous Insufficiency. They occur generally at the later stages of venous disease when the veins have become significantly dilated. Even if not visible, varicose veins can cause a variety of symptoms which can be alleviated with different treatment options.

Varicose veins and their cousins, spider veins, are presentations of venous insufficiency. With venous insufficiency, the vein walls or valves do not work efficiently, leading to blood pooling in veins (often in the legs). While varicose veins can be benign and simply a cosmetic concern, for some people they can cause aching, pain and discomfort. Additionally, varicose veins can be indicative of more serious problems, such as venous insufficiency.

Most people believe that you have to see veins bulging out of your legs in order to seek a diagnosis and treatment. This is not true. Many people have no visual signs of vein disease and have only the symptoms.

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

Symptoms of varicose veins include:

  • Blue or dark purple color veins
  • Bulging, swollen, twisted appearance of veins
  • May be present with or without pain
  • Pain including a burning, throbbing, or aching sensation
  • Heavy feeling in the legs, especially at night or after exercise
  • Nighttime leg cramps
  • Tired legs after prolonged standing
  • Swollen ankles

Other symptoms include:

  • Hardening of fat under the skin of the ankles (lipodermatosclerosis)
  • Red, dry, itchy skin near the varicose veins
  • Restless leg syndrome
Varicose Veins in Legs

Causes and Risk Factors for Varicose Veins

Veins have one-way valves that allow the blood to return from the body to the heart. To do so, leg veins must work against gravity. However, if the vein walls become weakened, stretched or stiffened, valves may be compromised. A weakened valve may interfere with the veins ability to circulate blood back to the heart. If this happens, blood can accumulate in the veins. Then, those veins become varicosed.

Risk factors for varicose veins include:

  • Age: Aging results in wear and tear on vein valves, potentially weakening them and impeding their ability to return blood to the heart.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop varicose veins. Pregnancy, premenstruation or menopause cause hormonal changes, tending to relax the walls of the veins.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnancy is a well-known cause of varicose veins. The growth of the uterus causes downward force on the venous blood flow. Also, the veins must contend with a 20 percent increase in blood volume during pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones also relax the pelvic ligaments and cells in vein walls.
  • Birth control pills: These or other hormone treatments, such as hormone replacement therapy, may increase the risk for developing venous insufficiency, and thus also varicose veins.
  • Family history: Having other family members with varicose veins increases the odds that direct relatives will get them as well.
  • Lifestyle: Regularly standing or sitting for long periods of time increases the risk of varicose veins.
  • Obesity: Excess weight increases the risk of developing varicose veins because of pressure exerted on the inside of the veins of the legs. One of the benefits of weight loss surgery is the potential to alleviate this and other health problems due to excess weight.
  • Trauma: Leg injury may cause damage to the valves in the veins, and thus lead to the development of varicose veins.
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Any history of smoking (Current or in the past)

Diagnosis of Varicose Veins

An experienced physician can determine whether a person has varicose veins by reviewing the patients symptoms and conducting a physical examination. During this exam, the doctor can determine this visually as well as by checking for signs of swelling, such as when the patient stands up.

The diagnostic test of choice is a lower extremity ultrasound. Ultrasounds are simple, noninvasive tests and are done in the office. They are used to check blood flow direction, the size of the veins, as well as to determine the presence of blood clots or obstructions in the veins.

Treatment for Varicose Veins

There are conservative steps that can be taken to relieve the effects of varicose veins and venous insufficiency largely by improving circulation and blood flow. These include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Wearing of compression stockings
  • Massage
  • Elevating the legs
  • Cutting back on salt to reduce water retention
  • Weight loss

In the event it is deemed advisable, vein ablation is a technological advancement in minimally invasive surgical treatment that alleviates varicose veins, venous insufficiency and their symptoms.

New York Weight Loss & SurgeryYour Source for Vein Health

During your consultation, Dr. Arad will review your symptoms and conduct a physical examination. In addition, Dr. Arad can confirm a diagnosis of varicose veins and venous insufficiency using diagnostic ultrasound done in the office. The test is simple, noninvasive, and takes around 20 minutes.

We can also help keep you free of varicose veins and other vein problems. We provide lifestyle education and home care advice to help you avoid and manage problems, and can relieve any vein conditions using surgical or nonsurgical treatments.

Contact us today with any questions or concerns, or for an appointment.