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All About Varicose Veins: Tips for preventing, diagnosing and treating this common condition

All About Varicose Veins: Tips for preventing, diagnosing and treating this common condition

Warmer weather brings with it many delights, including trading jeans for shorts and bathing suits. But if you’re one of the 40 million Americans who struggle with varicose veins, baring your legs may cause more discouragement than pleasure.  

Ayorinde Akinrinlola, MD, vascular surgeon and chair of Valley Health’s Peripheral Vascular Disease Council, offers expert information about this common condition. 

What causes them? Varicose veins, and milder spider veins, are twisted and enlarged veins usually found in the legs. They are caused by weak or damaged valves in the veins that allow some blood to flow backward on its way to the heart. The blood pools in the vein, which results in stretching and twisting. 

Dr. Akinrinlola notes that varicose veins are more common in women and tend to appear with age and run in families. Other risk factors include pregnancy, especially for women with multiple pregnancies; obesity; or sitting and standing for long periods of time. “Varicose veins that appear during pregnancy will likely disappear after childbirth,” he adds. 

Are they dangerous? You may notice achiness, burning, throbbing, itching, or swelling in your legs. In serious cases, patients may develop skin ulcers or bleeding, although these complications are rare. “Varicose veins are generally not dangerous, and they don’t lead to deep vein blood clots, so I reassure my patients of the low risk,” says Dr. Akinrinlola. “If patients have severe swelling, pain or skin discoloration, treatment may be necessary.” 

What are treatment options? “I recommend the conservative treatment first: use of compression stockings,” continues Dr. Akinrinlola. Available at pharmacies and medical supply stores, they help veins move blood more efficiently. These vary in pressure, so ask your doctor what to buy. 

If problems persist, talk to your provider about treatments. Options include injections (sclerotherapy), endovenous thermal ablation with laser or radiofrequency energy, and surgical removal (stripping). Treatments are usually done in a physician’s office, most under local anesthesia. 

Can I prevent them? There is no guaranteed way to prevent varicose veins, but healthy habits can help. Staying active, varying positions when sitting and maintaining a healthy weight are common-sense measures that can pay off in a number of different ways—including keeping your legs shorts ready. 

Have questions about treatment for your varicose veins? Talk with your primary care provider or schedule an appointment at Valley Health Vascular Surgeons at 540-536-6721.