Varicose veins are gnarled, enlarged veins. Any vein may become varicose, but the veins most commonly affected are those in your legs and feet. That's because standing and walking upright increases the pressure in the veins of your lower body.
For many people, varicose veins and spider veins — a common, mild variation of varicose veins — are simply a cosmetic concern. For other people, varicose veins can cause aching pain and discomfort. Sometimes varicose veins lead to more-serious problems. Varicose veins may also signal a higher risk of other circulatory problems. Treatment may involve self-care measures or procedures by your doctor to close or remove veins.
Normally, veins return blood from the rest of your body to your heart, so the blood can be recirculated. To return blood to your heart, the veins in your legs must work against gravity. Varicose ...
Varicose veins usually don't cause any pain. Signs you may have varicose veins include:
When painful signs and symptoms occur, they may include:
Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but they're smaller. Spider veins are found closer to the skin's surface and are often red or blue. They occur on the legs, but can also be found on the face. Spider veins vary in size and often look like a spider's web.
When to see a doctor
Arteries carry blood from your heart to the rest of your tissues. Veins return blood from the rest of your body to your heart, so the blood can be recirculated. To return blood to your heart, the veins in your legs must work against gravity. Muscle contractions in your lower legs act as pumps, and elastic vein walls help blood return to your heart. Tiny valves in your veins open as blood flows toward your heart then close to stop blood from flowing backward.
Causes of varicose veins can include:
These factors increase your risk of developing varicose veins:
Complications of varicose veins, although rare, can include:
Preparing for your appointment
There are no special preparations you'll need to make before your appointment. Your doctor will need to look at your bare legs and feet to diagnose varicose veins and figure out what treatment might be best for your condition.
Your primary care doctor may recommend that you see a doctor who specializes in vein conditions (phlebologist), a vascular surgeon or a doctor who treats skin conditions (dermatologist or dermatology surgeon). In the meantime, there are some steps you can take to prepare for your appointment and begin your self-care.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
To diagnose varicose veins, your doctor will do a physical exam, including looking at your legs while you're standing to check for swelling. Your doctor may also ask you to describe any pain and aching in your legs.
You may also need an ultrasound test to see if the valves in your veins are functioning normally or if there's any evidence of a blood clot. In this noninvasive test, you lie on an examination table. A small amount of warm gel is applied to your skin. The gel helps eliminate the formation of air pockets between the transducer and your body. During an ultrasound, a technician trained in ultrasound imaging (sonographer) presses a small hand-held device (transducer), about the size of a bar of soap, against your skin over the area of your body being examined, moving from one area to another as necessary. The transducer transmits images of the veins in your legs to a monitor, so a technician and your doctor can see them.
Treatments and drugs
Fortunately, treatment usually doesn't mean a hospital stay or a long, uncomfortable recovery. Thanks to less invasive procedures, varicose veins can generally be treated on an outpatient basis.
Stockings come in a variety of strengths, styles and colors. With the variety offered, you're likely to find a stocking that you're relatively comfortable wearing.
You can buy compression stockings at most pharmacies and medical supply stores. Prices vary. Prescription-strength stockings also are available.
When purchasing compression stockings, make sure that they fit properly. Using a tape measure, you or your pharmacist can measure your legs to ensure you get the right size and fit according to the size chart found on the stocking package. Compression stockings should be strong, but not necessarily tight. If you have weak hands or arthritis, getting these stockings on may be difficult. There are devices to make putting them on easier.
Additional treatments for more-severe varicose veins
Varicose veins that develop during pregnancy generally improve without medical treatment within three to 12 months after delivery.
Be a cautious consumer
You may want to inquire about treatment costs, as well. Many insurance policies don't cover the expense of elective cosmetic surgery for varicose veins. However, in many cases, if you have signs or symptoms such as swelling and bleeding, insurance may cover the treatment.
Current treatments for varicose veins and spider veins are effective. However, it's possible that varicose veins can recur.
Compression stockings (also called support stockings) compress your legs, promoting circulation. A stocking butler may help you put on the stockings. ...
Lifestyle and home remedies
There are some self-care measures you can take to decrease the discomfort that varicose veins can cause. These same measures can help prevent or slow the development of varicose veins, as well. They include:
Horse chestnut seed extract may be an effective treatment for chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), a condition associated with varicose veins in which leg veins have problems returning blood to the heart. The herb may help improve swelling and discomfort caused by varicose veins. Talk with your doctor before trying horse chestnut seed extract or any other herb or dietary supplement.
There's no way to completely prevent varicose veins. But improving your circulation and muscle tone can reduce your risk of developing varicose veins or getting additional ones. The same measures you can take to treat the discomfort from varicose veins at home can help prevent varicose veins, including:
Last Updated: 2011-01-12
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