What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose Veins are enlarged veins that can be blue, red or flesh colored. They are often raised above the skin on legs and look like twisted bulging cords. Varicose veins occur when the valves in the veins that carry blood from the legs toward the heart no longer function, causing blood to pool in the legs.
Types of Varicose Veins
There are several types of varicose veins, such as:
- Trunk varicose veins are near to the surface of the skin and are thick and knobbly. They are usually visible, often quite long and can look unpleasant.
- Reticular varicose veins are red and are sometimes grouped close together in a network.
- Telangiectasia varicose veins, also known as thread veins or spider veins, are small clusters of blue or red veins that sometimes appear on your face or legs. They are harmless and, unlike trunk varicose veins, do not bulge underneath the surface of the skin.
There are several methods of treating these:
On your first visit the Consultant will make an assessment of your veins to decide which treatment is appropriate.
Myths about Varicose Veins and Spider Veins
Here is a list of common myths and misunderstandings about varicose veins and spider veins, and the truth behind these conditions and their treatment.
- Myth: Varicose veins are not a result of prolonged standing
Truth: Those spending significant time on their feet are at higher risk for developing varicose veins. It is recommended that those with careers where they are often on their feet, such as restaurant servers or athletes, rest each day by elevating their feet above their heart.
- Myth: Crossing legs often contributes to varicose veins and/or CVI
Truth: Crossing your legs has little correlation to varicose veins and/or CVI. However, being overweight often contributes to the formation of varicose veins, with the added pressure on the legs and ankles causing the veins to bulge and blood flow to be disrupted. Regular exercise is recommended to increase blood flow in the legs and maintain a healthy weight to mitigate conditions that can lead to CVI, particularly varicose veins.
- Myth: Spider veins are the same thing as varicose veins.
Truth: Both varicose and spider veins are caused by hemodynamic dysfunctions. However, spider veins appear as a nest of blue or red veins just under the surface of the skin, and do not protrude from beneath the skin. Though they do not pose a medical risk, spider veins can be removed with minimally invasive procedures for cosmetic reasons.
- Myth: Men are not at risk for developing varicose veins and/or CVI.
Truth: Men, though less likely than women to develop varicose veins, are at risk for CVI. In fact, 42% of men are expected to develop varicose veins by the time they reach their 60s.3However, a majority of those do not seek treatment until symptoms worsen.
- Myth: Insufficient hydration has been shown to contribute to varicose veins and/or CVI
Truth: Insufficient hydration has little correlation to varicose veins. However, lower limb trauma has shown to contribute to symptoms leading to CVI.And, during pregnancy, there is increased pressure on the veins in the pelvis that may contribute to the creation of varicose veins in the legs.
- Myth: Varicose veins are a cosmetic issue and don’t need to be treated
Truth: Varicose veins, though often thought of as a cosmetic nuisance, can actually progress to CVI, a more serious medical condition. CVI is a progressive disease that can result in increasingly serious symptoms if not treated, including leg pain, swelling, skin damage and ulcers. And, as a treatable condition, varicose veins can be mitigated by various minimally invasive treatments before they progress.
- Myth: Genetics and age do not factor into the development of varicose veins and CVI
Truth: Genetics and age are large contributors to the development of varicose veins and CVI. In fact, women older than 50 are most likely to develop CVI. And, if you have a family member who suffers from varicose veins or symptoms of CVI, you are more likely than others to develop varicose veins in your lifetime.
This animation explains in detail what varicose veins are, their causes, symptoms and the various treatment options.