Varicose veins are thought to be a cosmetic problem but sometimes they could require medical attention. It is not uncommon for people to confuse varicose veins with spider veins. What are varicose veins and spider veins? Is there any difference between the two? What are the causes of varicose veins? How to prevent them? Is there any treatment? The following is a guide that seeks to answer all your questions on this condition. Read on to find out!
What are varicose veins?
As a rule, varicose veins are enlarged, swollen and bulging veins that mostly appear on ones legs and feet. In fact, they often appear bluish and are usually just a cosmetic issue. However, once they become inflamed and painful or rapture into small skin ulcers, then it becomes a cause for medical attention. Spider veins, on the other hand, are a smaller variation of varicose veins and tend to look like a spider’s web. They affect the ankles, legs and sometimes the face, and are usually closer to the surface of the skin.
Varicose veins causes
Normally, when the heart pumps blood throughout the body, it is the veins that carry the blood back to the heart. The valves found in veins are one-way to regulate blood flow. Though, if they don’t function properly, some blood leaks back instead of flowing straight to the heart. As a result, this blood accumulates in the veins over time and builds up pressure that weakens the vein’s walls causing them to enlarge.
Some of the main risk factors of varicose veins are:
- Pregnancy- this is due to an increase in blood volume and hormone levels.
- Age- the older one gets, the more they are at risk of having varicose veins. Aging causes wear and tear of the valves.
- Obesity- the extra weight adds on pressure to the veins.
- Hereditary factors- family history can be a contributing factor.
- Gender- women are more prone to varicose veins due to hormonal imbalances caused by menopause, birth control pills etc.
- Another risk factor is sitting or standing for long periods as blood flow is usually restricted.
Although varicose veins and spider veins are considered to be more of a cosmetic problem than a medical one, sometimes they lead to bigger health problems if not treated. Some of these problems include:
- Deep vein thrombosis. These are blood clots found in the vein. While they can be hard to detect, sometimes they cause swelling, pain or a pulling sensation on ones calf. Blood clots pose the risks of causing pulmonary embolism (blockage in lungs) that leads to breathing problems and sometimes even death.
- Bleeding- the accumulation of blood in the veins over a long period of times weakens the veins and may cause them to rapture. While the bleeding might be minor, it is important to seek medical attention to prevent the same from happening again.
- Skin ulcers- these are usually painful and mostly forms around the ankles. Due to increased pressure on the veins from the buildup of blood, a sore discolored spot begins to appear on the skin and eventually results into an ulcer. Ulcers caused by varicose veins require medical attention.
- Thrombophlebitis- this is not to be confused with deep vein thrombosis as it is merely an inflammation of the veins. Even through it can be accompanied by clotting, it is not as dangerous as DVT and is not a cause for alarm.
- Varicose veins could also lead to severe inflammation and in advanced cases, raptured veins. It is important for one to treat varicose veins to prevent advanced problems like DVT that could even result in death.
Prevention of varicose veins
There are no prevention measures in place but there are measures one could take to reduce the risk. These measures include:
- Watching one’s weight
- Regular exercise
- Eating a low-salt and high fiber diet
- Regularly changing the sitting or standing position
- Avoidance of high heels
The above measures can also be used to treat discomfort bought about by varicose veins.
Varicose veins treatment
When the patient is not bothered by the swollen varicose veins, treatment may not be necessary. Discomfort and pain on the other hand requires medical attention. Some treatment options are surgery, sclerotherapy, compression stockings or litigation and stripping.
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