Varicose veins are not attractive. Gnarled, thick, and bulging veins are a source of pain and embarrassment for many people, which is why many are unaware or reluctant to seek out treatment. The condition is so prevalent that it affects over 40 million people across the country. In most cases, the appearance of varicose veins is a cosmetic blemish. For others, varicosities can mean developing or underlying health problems. There are noninvasive and minimally invasive methods to determine if their presence is a sign of something more serious and life-threatening. Untreated, varicose veins can lead to an increase in blood clots, ulcers, and other severe and long-term health problems.
If you have varicosities in your legs, calves, feet or anywhere else on your body, have a doctor evaluate them. Keep in mind, they can develop internally and remain asymptomatic or cause additional symptoms. Use this guide to learn about common complications that warrant immediate medical treatment to prevent further complications and additional varicose veins development.
Common Symptoms of Varicose Veins
Swollen and twisted veins can cause edema, fatigue, pain, throbbing, and skin discoloration. Some people develop unpleasant sensations in their legs that become more distressing at night (restless legs) or are unable to stand longer than a few moments at a time. The effects are often more dramatic visually than they are physically. However, certain risk factors and medical concerns can lead to more serious complications.
Veins that are exposed to additional pressure from excess body weight, hormone changes, pregnancy, or trauma can rupture or collapse. Their weakened state makes them especially vulnerable to punctures and blunt force trauma.
The viscosity of the blood in the compromised area may increase and lose its ability to form clots. The use of certain medications, such as blood thinners can increase the risk of clotting disorders and other veinous diseases. Bleeding varicose veins should never be ignored. Internal bleeding can become life-threatening without immediate and proper medical attention. External bleeding can result in excessive blood loss if the wound/veins fail to respond to light pressure and basic first aid care.
Ulcers and slow healing wounds
Damaged veins compromise skin health and impede the body’s healing functions. The skin surrounding the varicosities become thinner and more prone to cuts, abrasions, and breakage. Wounds take longer to heal which, can increase the risk of complications that are specific to the injury. There is also the risk of complications from varicosities. Ulcers are slow healing sores that are vulnerable to infection. Wounds that have pus, redness, weeping, feel warmer than usual, or a foul odor require immediate medical care. Proper treatment of the wound and varicose veins is necessary to enhance healing and protect the area from additional injury.
Circulation issues can have a negative impact on muscle health and performance. Poor circulation decreases the oxygen and nutrients in the blood, causing it to become thicker. The muscles and veins in the affected area work harder and less efficiently to maintain proper function, resulting in fatigue. Poor circulation that impacts muscle performance can eventually develop into serious health concerns that cause swelling and peripheral nerve damage.
Inflammation and Blood Clots
Damaged veins can become inflamed from physical trauma and injury. Vein inflammation (phlepitis) is also common in individuals who are more sedentary than active and have certain medical conditions. Untreated, inflammation of the veins leads to the development of blood clots/thrombophlebitis or deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVTs are serious. They occur in the deeper muscle layers and vessels.
Thrombophlebitis occurs in the more superficial vessels and muscles. Clots in the blood vessels can cause extreme pain and swelling suddenly. They can also travel throughout the circulatory system and restrict proper blood flow to other organs and systems in the body, causing severe complications. Sometimes, they can become life-threatening, resulting in pulmonary embolisms and stroke due to DVT.
Sexual Dysfunction and Infertility
Abnormal vein structure and poor circulation reduces blood flow to the heart, which can cause sexual performance issues, decreased feelings of arousal, and infertility and impotence. They can also affect the nerves in the reproductive system and genitals, resulting in bruising, pain, and other types of discomfort when engaged in sexual activity.
Managing Varicose Veins
While awaiting medical care, use the following strategies to minimize the pain and discomfort of varicose veins.
- Exercise and move around. Avoid sitting and standing still for too long. Stretch often to maintain proper blood circulation and prevent fatigue.
- Use compression socks and hose to firmly support the impacted limb to minimize pressure and stress on the blood vessels. Compression garments help support the varicose veins to prevent them from becoming worse and new varicosities from developing.
- Rest while elevating the affected area for 15-to-20-minute sessions. Repeat this step several times a day for optimal benefit.
- Increase fluid intake. Drink more liquids to prevent dehydration. Chronic dehydration increases the viscosity of the blood. Thicker blood moves sluggishly and requires more work to transport throughout the body. Proper hydration is necessary for optimal muscle and vein health and function.
Treatment Options for Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are preventable and treatable. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned in this guide, seek treatment. We offer both medical and cosmetic varicose veins treatment options to improve veinous system function and health in the legs, ankles, and calves. Treatment plans are structured on the unique needs of each patient. To maintain procedure results and reduce the likelihood of varicose vein reoccurrence, an active lifestyle and healthy diet are necessary, especially during and after recovery.
Varicose veins rarely disappear on their own. Sometimes they become worse and compromise mobility and overall health. A medical evaluation is necessary to rule out certain health issues and prevent complications. In-patient and outpatient treatments are available to get rid of protruding, discolored, and ugly veins to restore physical comfort, appeal, and confidence. To learn varicose vein treatment options that are ideal for your situation, please call us to schedule a consultation.