Painful and swollen veins affect up to 30% of American adults, so this is a very common issue. While varicose veins aren’t dangerous, they can lead to or indicate other conditions, so it’s important to get them evaluated by a specialist. At R Shaheen Vascular in Mountain View, CA, we provide several treatment methods for varicosities, including laser therapy and sclerotherapy.
But why do so many people get varicosities, and is there anything you can do to prevent them? The answer is that this disease occurs mainly in older people due to weakened or damaged valves. However, other factors such as your gender and your family history can also increase your risk. Read on to find out more about varicosities, their causes, and the best treatments.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Varicosities are caused by weak or damaged veins. While your arteries pump the blood away from your heart, your veins bring it back. They have to work against gravity, so they contain small valves that prevent the blood from flowing backward, towards your feet and hands. When these valves get damaged, the blood can no longer travel smoothly, and it might pool in your extremities, usually your legs.
This causes your veins to bulge and become deformed. While varicosities might be a cosmetic problem at the beginning, they can cause pain and swelling down the line. Older people, women, those who have been pregnant, and those who have a family history of varicosities are more likely to be at risk. There are also several lifestyle factors that increase the likelihood of damaged valves and veins.
Young people are much less likely to have problems with their veins because their bodies are still good at repairing damaged tissues. But over time, wear and tear causes damage, and your valves might start to break down. For this reason, people over the age of 50 are much more likely to suffer from varicosities than those who are younger.
Studies have shown that women develop varicosities much more often than men. This might be due to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle and in menopause, which cause the walls of the veins to weaken and relax. Women who undergo hormone treatments and those who take hormonal birth control pills might be more at risk than others.
During pregnancy, the body produces a lot more blood than usual to support the growing baby. For this reason, your circulatory system is put under pressure, and the veins in the legs are enlarged. As a result, problems such as varicosities become more likely.
Usually, pregnant women don’t need treatment because their symptoms disappear three or four months after their baby is born, especially if they wear compression tights. However, you can come to speak to your doctor if you still suffer from varicosities after six months.
If some of your close relatives have varicosities, it is more likely that you will have them, too. This is because there is a genetic component, and weak vein walls and valves are more common in some families than in others. While there is nothing you can do about your family history, you can take early precautions if you know that you might be at risk.
People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from varicosities than those who aren’t because excess weight puts a lot of pressure on your circulatory system. Not only does your heart have to work harder, but you are also putting more physical pressure on your body when you carry around too much weight. What’s more, many overweight people don’t follow an optimal diet, so their bodies might not have the necessary nutrients to remain healthy.
Another factor is the kinds of activities you participate in. People whose jobs or hobbies involve many hours of standing at a time are more at risk because the blood tends to pool in their legs. It’s best to alternate between standing and sitting frequently, so your body can get a break.
How Can I Reduce My Risk?
The best way to reduce your risk of varicosities is to lead a healthy lifestyle that includes plenty of exercise. Cardiovascular activities like running, swimming, or water aerobics strengthen the circulatory system and reduce your risk of various diseases. Similarly, eating a lot of whole foods instead of heavily processed ones strengthens all your cells and allows your body to repair damaged tissues more easily.
Avoid very tight hosiery and high heels, especially if you know that you will be standing for a long time throughout your day. Change your position regularly, and put your feet up when you are sitting, so the blood can flow out of the legs more easily. Watch your weight, and if you’re worried about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, contact a nutritionist or personal trainer and ask them to keep you accountable.
How Can Varicosities Be Treated?
Varicosities don’t always have to be treated. If you don’t have a lot of pain and you’re not too worried about the appearance of the veins, it’s safe for you to simply wear compression stockings when standing for a long time. However, people who feel significant pain or those who would like to regain the smooth, even look of their legs can come to the clinic and ask to be treated.
There are several options, most of which are minimally invasive. This means that you won’t be operated on, and you can return home and resume most of your regular activities right away. Here at R Shaheen Vascular, we can perform laser therapy, radiofrequency ablation, or sclerotherapy. If your veins are very large and painful, we might also offer you ligation and stripping.
Laser Therapy or Radiofrequency Ablation
Laser therapy and radiofrequency ablation are very similar treatments, and they are both minimally invasive. We will simply make a tiny incision in your leg and insert a small device. This then emits laser or radiofrequency energy as it is pulled through your vein, which burns the tissue and prompts it to collapse. Over time, your body will recognize that the vein is no longer functional, and it will break it down.
The results of these treatments aren’t instantaneous, and you might have to wait for several months for your vein to disappear completely. However, most patients are extremely happy with their outcome because laser therapy and radiofrequency ablation have a high success rate, and they don’t cause a lot of disruption. In fact, you can leave the clinic right after treatment and return to your work or regular activities.
Sclerotherapy is very similar to the above-mentioned methods, but it makes use of a chemical called sclerosant instead of radiofrequency or laser energy. This chemical is injected into your veins, and it prompts the walls to collapse.
Over the next few weeks and months, your body will absorb the broken vein, and your symptoms will disappear. Because there are lots of blood vessels in your legs, your blood won’t have any trouble traveling through other channels, and you won’t notice a change in function.
Ligation and Stripping
People who have very large or pronounced veins sometimes can’t get rid of them with lasers, radiofrequency, or sclerosant. Instead, they need to have the veins physically removed from the body. Ligation is the process of tying off the broken vein, and stripping is the process of removing it through a small incision. While this treatment is more invasive than the other, it can also be done on an outpatient basis.
Are Varicosity Treatments Permanent?
All our treatments involve the removal of the vein from your leg, so they are permanent. This means that your varicosity won’t recur because the vein no longer exists, but it doesn’t mean that you will never suffer from this problem again.
In some cases, other veins become affected over time, and another round of treatment might be necessary. However, patients who lead a healthy lifestyle and avoid lengthy bouts of standing can often avoid further varicosities.
Get Rid of Your Varicosities Now
Varicose veins are caused by a variety of factors, including the patient’s age, gender, whether they have ever been pregnant, their family history, or their lifestyle. While they can’t be prevented, you can reduce your risk by living a healthy lifestyle and avoiding long periods of standing. Get in touch with us at R Shaheen Vascular in Mountain View, CA to speak to a professional about your varicosities and to find out about treatment methods.