The Ultimate Guide to Varicose Veins

By Krista Elliott

Your legs have a lot going on, and I don't just mean that in a flattering way. 

In all seriousness, your legs do a lot. Standing, running, walking, jumping, dancing, and planting your foot up someone's backside are all in a day's work for your gams. Because your legs can move in so many ways, it's not all that surprising that they'd contain some pretty complex structures. And when everything works as it should, great. But sometimes things go awry. And when your vascular system is what goes on the fritz, you wind up with varicose veins

What are Varicose Veins?

A lot of people confuse varicose veins with spider veins. Spider veins are tiny, tend to be flat, and often appear blue, red or purple. Varicose veins, on the other hand (or leg), are larger, ropey veins, often found on the inner side of the leg. Raised, and usually blue or green-tinged, varicose veins are often accompanied by aching, tingling, burning, or heaviness in the legs.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

To first understand varicose veins, you have to understand the function of veins themselves. Arteries carry oxygenated blood throughout the body, out to your extremities. Veins bring the deoxygenated blood back to the heart, where it can start the cycle over again. 

In order to bring your blood back from your legs, your veins have a fair bit of work to do. Fighting against gravity means that if your veins are weakened (age) or subject to excessive pressure (pregnancy, obesity, or being sedentary), blood is likely to start pooling in any weak spots. This causes the vein to enlarge in areas, leading to the lumpy, ropey vein snaking up your inner calf. 

How are Varicose Veins Treated?

Varicose veins are not only unsightly and uncomfortable, they can be dangerous. With varicose veins, you have an increased risk of ulceration and blood clots. So if you have a varicose vein, make sure to report any changes or new symptoms to your doctor immediately. 

If there are no complications with your varicose veins, conservative treatment can provid relief and keep the vein from getting worse. Support stockings are an effective form of treatment, helping push the blood back up the veins so that it does not pool further. Lifestyle changes and sclerotherapy (injecting the vein with saline so that it dries up and collapses) are also effective. 

If your varicose vein is large, or if you do have complications like a blood clot, surgery may be your only viable option. The vein may either be tied off, or removed altogether. This will leave you with a smal scar at each end of where the vein was, and possibly some permanent numbness at the incision sites. 

Varicose veins are a pain, both figuratively and literally, but they can be managed, giving you a leg up on greater comfort and health. 

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