What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are veins that bulge, twist, and enlarge in size. These damaged veins are commonly found in the legs and feet but can happen anywhere in the body.
Varicose veins, in most cases, are not a serious medical concern but can be painful or embarrassing if they become a cosmetic concern. In some cases, however, varicose veins are the tip of the iceberg of a deeper medical concern. If you have varicose veins that are uncomfortable in any way, please schedule an appointment with our board-certified vascular doctors. The VeinSolutions teams in Flint, Michigan and Lapeer, Michigan can provide in-depth screenings and the correct treatment plan.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins appear when veins become weak or are damaged. When vein walls and valves become weak, blood is unable to effectively be pushed upward, back to the heart. Gravity pulls blood downward when in standing or seated positions and this puts pressure on veins.
Blood will pool in weakened veins and this will lead to back pressure on these valves as the blood tries to flow through. All this pressure can result in the veins giving out, resulting in a bulging and twisting appearance. These enlarged veins are cosmetically unappealing to most people and can become uncomfortable as the condition worsens.
Risk Factors For Developing Varicose Veins
Women are more likely to be affected by varicose veins than men. Females have more of the hormone progesterone and this hormone can relax vein walls causing blood to pool. Birth control pills and hormone therapy can increase the amount of this hormone inside a woman’s body and this can exacerbate the issue.
When estrogen levels drop at menopause (usually around age 50), this can lead to an increased risk of varicose veins because the lower levels make it more difficult for vein valves in your leg muscles to operate properly. Menopause often leads to weight gain, as well, and this can increase pressure on veins.
Varicose veins are caused by too little elasticity in the blood vessels. It’s easy to see where degeneration comes into play. With age, connective tissue begins to break down causing skin wrinkles and premature aging elsewhere in the body. These weakened connective tissues cannot effectively push blood back up out of the legs toward the heart.
Obesity can lead to varicose veins because it causes pressure on the veins, which makes them more susceptible to swelling and twisting. Varicose veins from obesity can occur anywhere in the body including but not limited to the legs, torso, arms, face, and neck.
One of the main culprits in varicose veins is genetics. Varicose veins are present in about 30%-40% of people with family histories of the condition. If both parents have varicose veins, that estimate rises to around a 90% chance of developing the same type of bulging veins.
Pregnancy can cause varicose veins because the uterus expands upwards into the abdominal cavity during pregnancy, causing a lot of pressure on your vascular system.
Many people who have varicose veins also have jobs with sedentary positions, such as sitting at a desk all day or working in retail. Inactivity coupled with stress can cause blood to pool and accumulate in your legs due to gravity. Jobs that require long hours of standing could also cause vein issues from blood compressing downward into the legs.
Lifestyle choices like a diet high in sodium and little exercise can put you at risk of developing damaged veins. Tight clothing and high heels can also put unnecessary pressure on the body, blocking effective blood flow through your veins.
Kidney disease and high blood pressure increase a person’s risk because these conditions weaken the walls of blood vessels. These and other conditions increase the pressure in the legs.
Smoking tobacco causes vasoconstriction. When this happens, vein walls narrow, and blood flow to the heart becomes more difficult. This is another way to put stress on vein walls. The carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke can also cause veins to become inflamed. Over time, this too will damage vein structure, leading to varicose veins.
Varicose Vein Treatment Options
- Surgery: If you have large varicose veins, they may need to be removed surgically. This is done under general anesthesia. In most cases, the patient can go home the same day.
- Ligation and Stripping: Two cuts are made at the top and bottom of the vein. The top of the vein is cut and sealed. Then, a thin wire is threaded up the vein through the bottom to be pulled out, pulling the entire vein out with it.
- Sclerotherapy: A chemical is injected into veins that are small or medium-sized. The chemical collapses the veins and they close after a few weeks. Some veins need to be injected more than once for full results.
- Radiofrequency Ablation: The doctor makes a small cut on your leg, and then a narrow tube is put in your vein. The doctor uses this to inject radiofrequency energy into the vein which heats up its walls. This causes them to collapse and the varicose veins will dissolve.
- Endovenous Laser Treatment: A catheter is put into your vein. A laser is then threaded through the catheter and positioned at the top of the vein that will heat up the vein. This heat energy will seal it shut.
- Transilluminated Powered Phlebectomy: You will need to have an incision to allow a light to be thread through so that the doctor can see each vein. The target veins are cut and removed with a suction device through the incision.
Schedule A Vascular Health Screening in Flint or Lapeer, MI
Get in contact with our highly specialized vascular doctors and surgeons at VeinSolutions. With multiple locations in Michigan, our team is ready to help ensure your circulatory health isn’t overlooked.