Varicose Veins: What Are They and Can I Treat Them?

Varicose veinsâÂ?¦a word that we’ve heard since childhood, or at least a phenomenon we’ve noticed since then. So what’s the skinny on varicose veins? What are they and how can you prevent them? In fact, how can you treat them?

Varicose veins are swollen or enlarged veins that generally appear blue or purple in color. This condition is most common in older people; however, the difference in occurrence between men and women is only ten percent. According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services “About 50 to 55% of American women and 40 to 45% of American men suffer from some form of vein problem. Varicose veins affect 1 out of 2 people age 50 and older.” (2005). Additionally, as we have all noticed, varicose veins are most common in the legs, feet, and ankles.

The reason why occurrences are higher in men and woman in their 50’s is due to the fact that your veins regulate the blood in the body. In order to prevent blood from back from flowing backwards towards the heart when going through the legs, your veins have valves to regulate the blood’s direction. However, these valves can weaken causing the blood to pool in an area. This in turn makes the veins swell. (Woman’s Health, 2005). This fact explains why our lower extremities are more prone to varicose veins that any other part of the body. These lower extremities put more pressure on the veins as they are furthest from the heart and carry the entire body weight.

So what exactly causes the values in our veins to weaken? Who is more likely to get varicose veins? Well, there are a great many things that can cause this common problem. Of course as we age our veins become weaker, so this is one problem. Additionally, genetics, hormonal changes, pregnancy, obesity, leg injury, and prolonged standing (Woman’s Health, 2005) can increase a person’s chances of getting varicose veins. Since things like genetics and age are unavoidable, it is important to take care of those factors we can control. Having a lot of pressure on your legs for a long amount of time creates a very trying environment for your veins, so obesity and pregnancy can take its toll. However, this is not to say that people should simply sit around as such action only creates other problems. In fact, prolonged sitting slows circulation as well and can actually cause varicose veins instead of prevent them.

There are, however, a number of methods that can help to prevent the occurrence of varicose veins. To promote healthy circulation exercise is highly recommended, especially walking which focuses directly on the lower extremities. Additionally, controlling the pressure put on your legs is important. Don’t cross your legs or put unnecessary pressure on them such as heavy items. Try sitting with your legs elevated to help in the circulation of blood. This takes pressure of the veins to do all the work getting blood back and forth from the legs, ankles, and feet. Avoid tight clothing that constricts natural circulation, and switch to a low salt high fiber diet. (Woman’s Health. 2005).

The aforementioned also work as home treatments for those who already have the condition. By following the tips above, the symptoms of varicose veins can actually be reduced or alleviated. Symptoms of varicose veins include not only the protruding blue and purples veins, but such things as heavy, ichy, or aching legs (or in the area where the veins are affected.) Additionally, one can experience severe pain upon standing or cramping legs at night. (Varicose Veins, 2005).

Varicose veins can also cause problems with blood clots in the superficial veins, pain, tenderness, and redness and/or swelling in the affected area. (Varicose Veins, 2005). Although such symptoms as aches or pains may not seem serious, any blood clot may signal a serious condition called deep vein thrombophlebitis, a clot within a deep vein. Additionally, excessive swelling, veins that are warm to the touch, sores or rashes on or near the affected area, pain in the chest or trouble breathing, or a sudden onset of varicose veins, are all signs that medical care should be sought.

Upon visiting the doctor a number of tests can be run to check the severity of the problem or the cause of it. A Doppler ultrasound can help your doctor to map out the valves in your veins and determine which ones are working and which are causing problems. A Duplex scan is a similar test, yet yields more detailed results on whether or not deep vein blood clots are present. (Varicose Veins, 2005). There are several other tests available to doctors, so you can consult your physician to find the one that is best for you.

Treatments also vary depending on the severity and cause of the problem and your doctor can help you to choose one for you should it be needed. Some such treatments include sclerotherapy in which a doctor injects a solution into the vein to seal it off and turn it into scar tissue. This treatment will cause the varicose vein to fade eliminating the problem. Like most procedures, sclerotherapy has its side affects. These can be discussed with you physician. Other treatments for varicose veins are laser surgery, various types of surgery, or a radiofrequency and laser treatment. As mentioned earlier, any sort of treatment may have side effects that should be discussed further with your doctor who knows your condition best.

Discussing all options based on your specific condition is extremely important as not all options are available for everyone. Certainly surgeries or other options are only available for specific candidates meeting strict requirements. Thus, tests and a proper diagnosis is required before any action is taken.

It is also important to remember that not all varicose veins are available for medical treatment. Instead, minor cases are encouraged to be treated using self care methods such as elevating the leg and others mentioned earlier. In some cases, this condition is merely a result of getting older; however, if the problem seems serious and symptoms are severe a doctor should be consulted immediately. There is life with varicose veins, so follow the prevention tips, self care tips, and the medical advice of your doctor to help you cope with your condition, or prevent the onset of the condition.


(2005, December). Woman’s Health. Retrieved August 21, 2006, from Department of Health and Human Services Web site:

(2006). What Are Varicose Veins?. Retrieved August 21, 2006, from Nemours Foundations Web site:

(2005, October). Varicose Veins. Retrieved August 22, 2006, from eMedicine Health Web site:

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