While most people are mainly concerned with the cosmetic effects of varicose veins, they can also cause persistent leg swelling, open skin ulcerations, and other painful symptoms that make them difficult to ignore.
The team of board-certified specialists at Premier Cardiology Consultants offers state-of-the-art cardiac care to patients of all ages from four beautiful locations in New York. Here’s what they say about varicose veins and how to prevent them.
Understanding how varicose veins develop
Your circulatory system includes arteries that carry oxygenated blood away from your heart to the rest of the body, picking up other nutrients from your small intestines along the way.
Small blood vessels (capillaries) connected to arteries move the freshly oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood into your organs and other tissue structures.
Capillaries also gather oxygen-depleted blood and transport it to veins, which carry the “used” blood back to your heart and lungs for an oxygen refill.
Varicose veins are most common in the legs because the blood there works against gravity to make its way back to your heart.
Increased pressure within these hard-working vessels can stretch and weaken vein walls and damage tiny flap-like valves within the veins that normally keep the blood flowing upward.
The vein damage slows blood flow, allowing it to pool within the vein, and resulting in the bulging and discoloration noted with varicose veins.
How can I prevent varicose veins?
Medical science isn’t sure why some people develop varicose veins and others don’t. We do know, however, that several factors increase your risk.
- Age, more common in adults
- Sex, more common in females and possibly related to shifting hormones
- Excess weight
- Physical inactivity
- Prolonged sitting or standing
- Family history of varicose veins
Many of these common risk factors are unchangeable, including your family history. This makes it impossible to always prevent varicose veins.
There are several things you can do, however, to help lower your risk. Routine exercise that helps maintain healthy muscles in your calves, for instance, may decrease your risk since veins rely on support from these muscles to push blood back toward your heart.
Other things you can do to help prevent strain on your leg veins that may cause varicose veins include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Taking at least short periodic/hourly breaks from standing or sitting
- Limiting your use of high heels, especially when standing for long periods
- Avoiding tight clothing that impairs circulation
- Elevating your legs at rest
A nutritious high-fiber, low-salt diet also helps maintain healthy circulation in your legs and may lower your risk of developing varicose veins.
How do you treat varicose veins?
There’s no way to heal a varicose vein. Instead, treatment focuses on sealing the vein. This causes the symptoms and cosmetic effects to fade as your body reroutes blood flow to a healthy vein.
Varicose veins can be removed surgically (stripped) but most are very amenable to ablative therapies. These minimally invasive, in-office treatments are essentially painless and generally much better tolerated than surgery. Recovery is also much faster.
Ablative therapies include sclerotherapy, during which a chemical (sclerosing) agent injected into the vein causes it to close. At Premier Cardiology Consultants, we also offer laser or radiofrequency ablation, both of which use heat to seal the vein.
For more information about varicose vein prevention and treatment, or any of the cardiovascular services we offer, schedule a visit today by calling the office or requesting an appointment online.