Varicose Veins Overview

What are the symptoms of varicose veins?

Varicose veins are dense masses of bulging, tortuous, and enlarged veins that protrude out of the skin’s surface. They might be reddish, bluish, skin-colored, or purplish, and they bulge outwards, looking like a mass of tangled and twisted ropes. Varicose veins are often indicative of chronic venous insufficiency, so they may be accompanied by the following signs and symptoms of vein disease:

  • Swollen ankles and feet
  • Frequent leg cramps
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Aching sensations
  • Leg heaviness, especially at night
  • Spider veins
  • Stasis dermatitis – red and itchy venous eczema
  • Lipodermatosclerosis – hard and lumpy fat deposits underneath the skin
  • Skin discoloration in the lower extremities of the legs

Who is at risk of getting varicose veins?

Varicose veins and spider veins occur in 45% of all men and 54% of all women, so these conditions are extremely common. Anyone can develop varicose veins, and the risk of vein disease increases with age. However, the risk of vein disease symptoms is particularly high amongst individuals with a family history of vein problems (genetic predisposition) or those whose jobs involve long periods of sitting or standing still (desk jobs, teaching, nursing, driving, etc.).

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are large, bulging masses of blood vessels that protrude out of the skin’s surface. They look like a dense mass of twisted, tangled, and knotted ropes or like large tree trunks. Varicose veins are essentially dilated blood vessels with an excessive accumulation of blood, which happens because of an underlying circulatory disorder known as chronic venous insufficiency. According to studies, approximately 20% of all people develop varicose veins at some point, and the risk is particularly high amongst women.

The following are some interesting facts about varicose veins:

  • Varicose veins are mostly common in the legs and lower extremities of the body, but they can appear anywhere on the body. They occur because of increased blood pressure in veins located deep underneath the skin.
  • The risk of varicose veins increases because of numerous factors, such as pregnancy, aging, hormone therapy, obesity, genetic predisposition, or a job that involves sitting or standing still for long periods of time.
  • Simple lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and wearing compression stockings, may alleviate the symptoms of vein disease, such as leg pain and leg heaviness. But you need minimally invasive varicose vein treatments to address the true root cause of varicose veins and achieve long-lasting results.
  • Chronic venous insufficiency is the primary root cause of varicose veins and most other vascular problems.

What causes varicose veins?

The human body contains two types of blood vessels – arteries and veins. The arteries carry oxygenated blood from the lungs to different parts of the body, delivering oxygen to your cells. The veins carry deoxygenated blood from the extremities of the body, such as the legs, to the heart to collect more oxygen. The veins contain mechanisms that ensure one-way blood circulation to the heart against the force of gravity, known as valves. These vein valves ensure blood flows from the legs to the heart against the force of gravity.

However, numerous factors can lead to the collapse of vein valves, leading to the accumulation of blood in leg veins. The continued accumulation of blood in leg veins leads to engorgement and increased pressure in the veins, leading to varicose veins and spider veins. The legs are the most common sites for varicose veins because the veins in the legs have to carry blood upwards to your heart against the force of gravity, so the collapse of vein valves in this area can be particularly problematic.

Is varicose vein treatment safe?

Varicose vein treatment is a simple, safe, in-office procedure that concludes within 30 minutes. Minimally invasive varicose vein treatments were developed in the early 2000s as a safer alternative to vascular surgery. Thanks to minimally invasive vein treatments, your vein doctor can now address the root cause of varicose veins without multiple excisions, hospitalization, downtime, or a high risk of complications. However, you must choose highly-skilled vein doctors specializing in the latest minimally invasive vein treatments to ensure optimal results. Our vein doctors in Maryland curate highly personalized vein treatment plans according to your unique symptoms, diagnosis, and medical history.

How is chronic venous insufficiency diagnosed?

During your appointment, a reliable vein doctor should carefully examine your leg veins, discuss your symptoms, and review your medical history. The vein doctor should also ask about your symptoms to determine the likelihood of underlying vein disease. Based on the evaluation, the vein doctor will determine if you need vascular imaging tests. If so, the vein specialist may administer an ultrasound scan known as duplex ultrasound, wherein ultrasound energy is used to visualize the blood flow in your leg veins. The ultrasound scan can reveal the location of blood clots, the direction of blood flow, and the root cause of varicose veins, helping the vein doctor curate a personalized vein treatment plan.