Dermatology Consultants Post

A Very In-Depth Look at Varicose Veins
Posted on 01/30/2017

A Very In-Depth Look at Varicose Veins

iStock-507144692Two women walk into a dermatologist office. One would like to see what treatments are available to reduce the look of the large veins in her legs, which prevent her from wearing skirts in the summer. Another has horrible, shooting leg pain that makes it difficult to drive, sit comfortably, or stand for long periods of time. Both women, in fact, face the same issue: varicose veins.

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are veins that have become enlarged or overfilled with blood. These veins swell and take on a red or bluish-purple color. Any vein in the body can become varicose, however the problem usually occurs in the legs and feet because all the standing and walking that human beings inherently do adds pressure to the veins on the lower half of your body. The development of varicose veins is a common condition, especially in women middle-aged and older.

Symptoms

The symptoms of varicose veins can be broken down into two main categories: cosmetic and practical. In terms of cosmetic—like the woman who wishes to wear skirts in the summer—the swollen and discolored look of varicose veins can detract from your life in terms of confidence and appearance. On a practical front, varicose veins cause:

  • Pain
  • Aching
  • Heaviness
  • Swelling
  • And Ulcers
 

Causes of Varicose Veins

You may be wondering what leads a vein to becoming varicose? The answer is simple: the vein has stopped functioning properly. Veins have one-way valves that allow blood to flow in one direction through the body, like a one-way street. As with a one-way street, if something blocks that flow of traffic, the street gets backed up. Such is the case with a vein. When a vein valve fails, the blood gets backed up and collects there instead of continuing on its intended journey to the heart. Hence another reason why varicose veins commonly occur in the legs; those veins are farther from the heart and their positioning combined with gravity makes it difficult for blood to flow upward. Reasons for a vein valve malfunction could include:

  • Obesity (which adds weight and pressure to the legs)
  • Prolonged periods of standing.
  • Pregnancy or (conversely) menopause
  • Other types of long-term increased pressure on the body
  • Certain chronic heart valve conditions

Diagnosing Varicose Veins

If you believe you have developed a varicose vein, you can visit your local Lynchburg, VA dermatologist to get properly diagnosed. In the office, your dermatologist can examine your legs, feet, etc. and properly diagnose your vein situation. In some cases an ultrasound may be conducted to check on the veins’ blood flow. In certain situations a procedure called an “angiogram” may also be conducted to give your dermatologist a better view of the blood flow. This process involves the injection of a special dye that shows up on X-rays.

What Are Your Treatment Options?

If you have varicose vein problems there are several paths you can pursue to treat them. The main options are:

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Compression
  • Surgery

Lifestyle Changes

The first step toward alleviating varicose veins is making adjustments to your lifestyle that may have led to the problem in the first place. Your Lynchburg dermatologist may recommend:

  • Losing weight to alleviate pressure
  • Exercising to enhance leg strength
  • Avoiding excessive standing
  • Not crossing your legs for long periods of time
  • Elevating your legs while sitting or sleeping

In addition to assuaging the symptoms of current varicose veins, making these types of changes can also help prevent the formation of new varicose veins.

Compression

Another means to treat varicose veins is compression—a method of increasing pressure on the afflicted areas of your body so that blood can flow more easily to the heart. In the case of leg varicose veins, to add this level of pressure your dermatologist may suggest you wear special compression pantyhose or stockings, which can be purchased in most drugstores and medical supply shops.

Surgery

If the above methods do not sufficiently relieve your varicose vein problems, your dermatologist can provide you with a surgical option. A varicose vein surgery involves your doctor removing the afflicted vein via incisions. This “vein-stripping” procedure generally requires about three to six weeks for full recovery.

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The Long View

Your Lynchburg, VA dermatologist can discuss the varicose veins treatments that are right for you during your appointment.

The important thing is to make that appointment and get started on the road to alleviating the issue. Varicose veins can get worse over time, causing you more pain and discomfort. Sometimes they can even lead to more severe medical issues related to circulatory problems.

As such, if you develop the signs and symptoms of varicose veins, schedule an appointment with your Lynchburg dermatologist as soon as possible—once treatment improves your quality of life, you’ll see it was a decision that wasn’t made in vain.