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5 Things You Need to Know About Varicose Veins

February 11, 2016 | Dr. Daniel Kassavin

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avoid-varicose-veins.jpgMost people worry about varicose veins because they’re, well, vain. A common misconception about these unsightly, bulging eyesores is that they are simply a cosmetic issue, which is not the case. Varicose vein treatment should be sought not only out of self-consciousness, but to determine whether there are any underlying, more serious issues.

For some people, they are nothing more than ugly, while others experience pain and discomfort in the legs. Varicose veins are a sign of venous insufficiency, when the veins fail to adequately circulate blood from the legs back to the heart. But this circulatory problem can be treated through self-care measures or by a doctor for more serious cases. There is a treatment for varicose veins that is painless and covered by most insurance plans. Here are five things you should know about this condition and what it means for you:

1. It is primarily genetic

Vein disease is mainly hereditary, accounting for nearly 80 percent of all cases, according to the Illinois Vein Specialists. If one parent has varicose veins, the likelihood of their children having them is about 40 percent. If both parents have them, the likelihood increases to 90 percent. While it’s most commonly seen in women, men can get it, too, which means it can come from Mom or Dad.

2. Varicose veins are different from spider veins

Many people use these two terms interchangeably, without knowing there is in fact a difference between the two conditions. Varicose veins are the gnarled, protruding veins that have stretched out due to blood pooling rather than being sent back up to the heart. Spider veins are smaller, purplish-colored veins that are seen beneath the skin, which tend to be less serious than varicose veins, but could be a sign of poor circulation and varicose vein formation. Have your doctor check if you have either type.

3. Varicose veins are superficial veins

Did you know you don’t actually need the veins that become varicose veins? While this may sound hard to believe, the veins that turn into varicose veins are part of the superficial vein system, which aren’t vital to your body’s circulatory system. This is what makes treatment less invasive and won’t damage the blood flow to your heart. Superficial veins are closer to the skin surface and are not necessary for pumping blood to and from the heart, like the deep vein system.

4. Pregnancy can cause varicose veins

The growing fetus can put increasing amounts of pressure on the inferior vena cava, the vein that drains blood from the lower limbs. Pregnancy also causes an excess production of hormones, which in turn causes the smooth muscle of the veins to relax, increasing the tendency for them to enlarge. The good news is that they tend to improve within a year of giving birth, especially if you didn’t have them prior to becoming pregnant. Unfortunately, women are more susceptible to varicose veins in pregnancy as they get older.

5. Exercise is a good way to avoid vein issues

As with pregnancy, any excess weight in the abdomen area can lead to varicose vein development. Maintaining a healthy weight is one way to keep them away, and exercise is key. Being active improves circulation, which can aid the blood going back up to the heart rather than pooling in the vein. Any exercises that get your blood moving—including walking, swimming and using the stairs—will suffice. You can sneak in a simple exercise anytime, anywhere by raising yourself up on the balls of your feet and then lowering to strengthen your calf muscles.

While you can’t predict whether you will get varicose veins, you can seek a doctor’s advice on how to treat them and get rid of them altogether. You should ask your doctor to make sure you do not have any deeper, more serious vascular conditions that need attention. Be sure to take note of any accompanying symptoms, such as swelling, heavy feeling in the legs or other discomfort. Not sure if you have varicose veins? Make an appointment with one of our vascular physicians at the Snyder/White Heart & Vascular Center today by calling 419-660-6946.

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