Updated on: 8/30/2023
It’s a good news, bad news situation when it comes to varicose veins.
First, the good news: Varicose veins don’t always cause problems. In some cases, they can be resolved with simple lifestyle changes. This is a crucial part of varicose vein prevention.
Now, the bad news: Varicose veins are unsightly—perhaps even to the point that you don’t want to wear shorts or your favorite skirt.
But this condition is far from merely cosmetic; it can also be very painful. It can cause sores, skin ulcers, and blood clots. So as long as you have varicose veins, you’re at risk of developing the pain and discomfort associated with them.
There are several aspects to this condition and its treatment. Therefore, we’ll provide in-depth insight on what causes varicose veins, how to avoid varicose veins, how they are treated and what will happen if you fail to get timely treatment.
If you’re currently experiencing issues related to varicose veins, your first step is with your primary care provider. Your CMC primary care provider can help you choose the best course of action.
But first, let’s delve into what varicose veins are and how you can keep them from getting worse.
What Are Varicose Veins?
These are enlarged veins that are twisted, typically found in the legs. They look like slightly raised, bluish veins underneath your skin’s surface. Often, they are primarily a cosmetic problem, but they may also cause lower leg cramps, aching and pain. In certain situations, they may lead to a more serious condition.
While not common, these conditions can include painful leg ulcers, blood clots in the legs and bleeding. If this occurs, medical attention is needed immediately.
According to the National Library of Medicine around 20% of all adults will, at some point, develop varicose veins. While it’s common in older Americans, younger people can have them as well, and they are more common in women.
How to Prevent Varicose Veins and Keep Them From Getting Worse
Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take to enhance the blood flow in your legs. As a result, you can prevent your varicose veins from getting worse. Try these things.
1. Get Regular Exercise
Your leg muscles are your biggest allies. Why? They help your veins push blood to the heart. This is very useful since your muscles are working against gravity. Any leg exercises will also help prevent the appearance of new varicose veins.
2. Lose weight if you’re overweight
You’re placing more stress on your legs if you are overweight or obese. Losing weight can also keep new varicose veins from forming. There’s a lot of benefits to losing weight other than helping with varicose veins. It also reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes. A healthy lifestyle can make a big difference when trying to prevent varicose veins.
3. Avoid standing or sitting for a long time.
Today’s office workers are at greater risk of developing varicose veins or making them worse. Remember to take a break at least every half hour and stand up and walk for a short while, even if it’s just to the break room and back. This forces the leg muscles to move blood toward your heart more than when you’re in a sedentary position. If your job requires you to stand for long periods of time, try to schedule a similar break to sit for a while.
4. Avoid tight-fitting clothes.
This can place more pressure on your legs, which can make varicose veins worse.
5. Be sure to put your feet up.
When possible, place your feet on a chair or stool positioned so the blood will be able to flow back toward your heart. This is particularly important if you have a job that requires you to stand or sit for long periods of time.
6. Wear support pantyhose.
This is also a good preventative measure to take to help keep varicose veins from forming. They are not necessarily as strong as compression hose, but in many cases, they will still be effective.
7. Invest in a compression hose.
You can purchase these over-the-counter or you can ask your doctor for a prescription-strength compression hose. Pressure on the ankle and lower leg helps blood move back toward your heart.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Veins carry blood to your heart. They all have a one-way valve—think of it as a turnstile—that helps the blood flow to your heart. If that turnstile is blocked, malfunctioning or if it stops moving, it can spell trouble for the rest of your system.
Your superficial veins—the veins that are located just under your skin—move blood to the deeper veins in your body. These deeper veins carry blood to the heart. Inside your veins, there are small valves. These valves ensure that the blood flows in the correct direction and prevents it from going backward.
If there is a problem with the valves, or if the vein walls weaken, blood begins to build up. The result is the bulging, blue and raised veins that are frequently seen on the legs.
Varicose veins are ropelike and can be blue or red, and can even make your skin bulge. They’re most common on the back and front of the calves, the inside of the leg and on the thighs, according to the Office on Women’s Health.
That is a basic overview of what causes varicose veins.
Am I at Risk of Developing Varicose Veins? The Major Risk Factors
You have a greater chance of getting varicose veins if any of the following apply to you:
We hate to break it to you, but if your mom had varicose veins, you’re more likely to develop them as well. Half of those with varicose veins have a family history of them, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
As you age, the valves in your veins may not work as well as they did when you were younger. This is another risk factor for varicose veins.
Sorry ladies, but the hormonal changes you experience—along with the use of birth control pills—can raise your risk.
Your growing baby doesn’t just put pressure on your bladder—it also places pressure on your leg veins. Fortunately, in this case, the veins usually improve three to 12 months after delivery.
Being overweight or obese
This excess weight exerts more pressure on your veins, leading to an increased risk.
Standing or sitting for long periods of time
Staying in one position for an extended time forces your veins to work harder, which can place you at risk.
Previous blood clots
If you’ve had any trauma to your legs or veins, this may weaken them, increasing your chances of developing varicose veins.
Will varicose veins go away on their own?
Typically, varicose veins will not go away on their own. One of the few exceptions is varicose veins which occur when you’re pregnant. Often, these may go away within three weeks after you’ve given birth.
However, for most people, varicose veins are a chronic and painful condition. You’ll need to seek treatment from one of our experienced physicians in Myrtle Beach and Horry County to get the relief you need and deserve. Start by visiting your primary care physician. He or she will be able to direct you to the services that will start you on your journey of healing.
If you don’t have a family doctor or you’re looking for a primary care doctor in Myrtle Beach, we’ll be glad to help you. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at our earlier article, “Which Family Doctor Should I Pick?” for advice and insight.
What Happens If Varicose Veins Are Untreated?
Failure to treat varicose veins opens the door to other health problems that can occur. This includes increased pain and swelling in the area as the veins continue to become more damaged.
Your legs are more likely to become tired and weak when varicose veins are untreated. If the varicose veins continue to be untreated, you could develop leg ulcers and non-healing wounds.
Other vascular problems can emerge from these untreated veins. This includes deep vein thrombosis, blood clots, and lipodermosclerosis. Lipodermosclerosis is a disease that causes swelling in the layer of fatty tissue beneath the skin.
How Serious Are Varicose Veins?
This depends upon how extensive and large your varicose veins are. If your situation is mild, you will need evaluation from your doctor to ensure that they do not get any worse and that you are not at risk for serious complications.
If you have severe varicose veins, it could be an indicator of chronic venous insufficiency, a condition that affects the efficiency of how your veins pump blood to the heart. You also may be at greater risk of developing blood clots.
The bottom line? Don’t take chances with your health. Talk to one of our experienced experts who will be the most reliable source of information.
When Should I Be Worried About Varicose Veins?
If more conservative treatment methods—such as compression stockings, periodically raising legs when lying down or exercise—aren’t effective, it’s important to schedule an appointment with our vascular physician in Myrtle Beach and Conway.
Why? Not only because you’ll continue to have uncomfortable symptoms, but untreated varicose veins can progress to additional physical health problems.
We’ve mentioned some of the health issues that could arise from varicose veins above.
Because of the potential for complications, we urge you to schedule an appointment with one of our primary care doctors if you have varicose veins.
What’s the Best Treatment for Varicose Veins?
So what if you’ve tried all the self-care techniques and compression stockings and you still have varicose veins? In that case, schedule an appointment with one of our primary care providers. These physicians in Myrtle Beach will evaluate the severity of your varicose veins and the success of any varicose vein preventions you’ve done/
Depending upon your individual situation, surgery may be the best option to get rid of varicose veins. Following are some of the more common procedures:
It takes a few weeks before you see results from sclerotherapy. During this procedure, the veins are filled with a foam that causes scarring. When the veins are scarred, they close. Eventually, they fade. You don’t need anesthesia or being “put to sleep” during sclerotherapy. For most patients, it can be done in a provider’s office.
There is no need for an incision or needles when you get laser treatment. It works through light therapy. When strong bursts of light are sent into the vein, it will slowly disappear.
Catheter-based procedures using radiofrequency or laser energy
A catheter is a long, thin tube frequently used to help treat large varicose veins. When the catheter is inserted, the end of it is headed. In turn, the head eliminates the vein, causing it to shut. The catheter is headed through radiofrequency or lasers.
High ligation and vein stripping
All you need is a few small cuts to strip these veins and remove them. In this procedure, your vascular surgeon will tie off a vein. Typically, this can be done on an outpatient basis.
Ideally used for removing smaller veins, an ambulatory phlebectomy utilizes small skin punctures to remove the veins.
How to Get Started With Varicose Vein Treatment
Remember: Treating varicose veins is about more than looking good. Not only will removing them alleviate a lot of the symptoms, but it can also help improve your overall circulation. The best way to do this is to schedule regular appointments with one of our leading primary care physicians in Horry County, Conway and Myrtle Beach—we have several convenient locations to serve you.
If you have varicose veins, your primary care doctor will be able to easily guide you in the direction to help you find effective solutions.
How to Avoid Varicose Veins? Take a Proactive Approach to Your Health With Conway Medical Center
Our physicians don’t only want to help you once you start having symptoms—we also want to help you prevent varicose veins or keep them from getting worse by scheduling an appointment in addition to using our helpful guide outlined above.
If you find yourself coping with the pain and unsightliness associated with this disease, do not hesitate to reach out to our experienced, leading physicians. Simply contact your primary care provider to get started.
Don’t have a primary care provider? Our network of physicians means there is a doctor located near you whom you can easily contact to schedule an appointment.
Conway Medical Center is a trusted leader in healthcare and has served the medical needs of Horry County and surrounding communities for nearly a century.