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Varicose Veins - When to Call a Doctor?

Varicose Veins – When to Call a Doctor?

May 13, 2024 | Blog, Vascular Issues

Varicose veins are twisted enlarged veins commonly found in the legs and feet. This condition happens when there is increased pressure in the veins. The increased pressure can be caused by prolonged standing or sitting, obesity, pregnancy, or genetic factors. Typically, varicose veins are classified as a cosmetic concern. However, they can lead to more serious issues if left untreated. 

When left untreated, this vascular condition can cause leg ulcers, blood clots, and chronic leg pain and discomfort. Untreated varicose veins can also lead to skin conditions like eczema, thickening, and skin discoloration. It is important to see a doctor, vascular surgeon, or healthcare provider if you experience any of these symptoms. 

At CACVI, we have board certified endovascular and cardiovascular surgeons who offer specialized treatment for varicose veins. We have performed more than 15,000 successful vascular and cardiac procedures, including vein treatment. Schedule a free consultation with us today to learn how we can offer faster recovery and lessen discomfort.

In this blog, we will discuss all there is to know about varicose veins and when you should worry about them. 

What are Varicose Veins?

What are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged, swollen veins that usually occur on the legs and feet. These veins appear twisted and bulging and are often visible as blue or purple veins just beneath the skin’s surface.

The condition is primarily caused by weakened valves and veins in the legs. Normally, one-way valves in the veins keep blood flowing from the legs up as the blood vessels and arteries carry blood to the heart. When these valves do not work as they should, blood collects in the legs, and pressure builds up. Thus, the veins become weak, large, and twisted.

Some risk factors for varicose veins include family history, age, and lifestyle. Other symptoms that play a role in contributing to this condition include pregnancy, obesity, and hormonal changes.

What are the Symptoms of Varicose Veins

For most people who have varicose veins, the veins will appear bulging and are often blue or dark purple. They are typically prominent and may look like cords on your legs. On the other hand, common sensations include pain, heaviness, and aching in the lower legs. These symptoms often worsen after prolonged standing or sitting.

Without proper care, varicose veins can cause more serious conditions such as chronic venous insufficiency, ulcers, blood clots, bleeding, etc. Chronic venous insufficiency happens when the leg veins don’t allow blood flow back to the heart. Ulcers then occur near the ankles, caused by long-term fluid buildup in the tissues.

Blood clots like superficial thrombophlebitis and more dangerously, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), can also happen when varicose veins are left untreated. This can lead to life-threatening conditions like pulmonary embolism if the clot travels to the lungs. Additionally, because the skin over the veins becomes thin and easily injured, it leads to bleeding that might be difficult to stop.

When to Worry About Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins, also known as spider veins, are generally not life-threatening. This is why they are often referred to as a cosmetic concern. However, they can lead to more serious complications like varicose veins cancer if not properly managed.

One serious symptom of varicose veins is the development of leg ulcers. Once you notice this, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Mild Symptoms of Varicose veins

Mild Symptoms of Varicose veins

Mild symptoms include visible bulging veins that are blue or dark purple. Individuals may also experience aching pain, muscle cramps, or a feeling of heaviness in the legs that typically worsens after sitting or standing for long periods.

When it comes to these mild symptoms, wearing compression stockings helps maintain blood flow and reduce discomfort. Raising one’s legs when sitting or resting also helps to improve poor circulation. Furthermore, engaging in regular physical activities assists in promoting blood flow, and weight management avoids putting extra pressure on your veins. 

While doing all these, you should keep an eye on symptoms like swelling, changes in skin color, or increased pain. Additionally, regular monitoring can help with early detection.

Moderate to Severe Symptoms of Varicose veins

Moderate to Severe Symptoms of Varicose veins

When there is severe and persistent pain and swelling, it is a sign that varicose veins may need medical attention. When skin changes such as thickening, darkening, or the development of skin ulcers happen particularly around the ankles, it might indicate chronic venous insufficiency. This is a condition where the blood flow to the heart is limited.

The appearance of sores or a rash near the spider veins is a sign that the condition may be worsening. You may also experience bleeding from or around the veins, or see a formation of a hard lump along the veins that could suggest a blood clot. 

Early medical intervention can prevent complications such as developing blood clots, venous leg ulcers, and deep vein thrombosis. Keep in mind that DVT can be life-threatening if the clot moves to the lungs (pulmonary embolism).

Visiting a vein specialist or a vascular surgeon is crucial if moderate to severe symptoms occur. They can offer treatments such as laser ablation or surgery to remove or close the damaged veins. This improves the condition and reduces the risk of complications.

Potential Complications of Not Treating Varicose Veins on Time!

Potential Complications of Not Treating Varicose Veins on Time!

One of the more severe outcomes of untreated varicose veins is the development of venous leg ulcers, particularly near the ankles. These ulcers are often painful and difficult to heal. Thus, resulting from long-term fluid buildup caused by poor blood circulation. Leg ulcer treatments often involve advanced therapies that target the underlying causes of the ulcers more directly. Blood clots and bleeding are also peripheral venous disease complications that could arise from varicose veins. 

The pain and physical limitations caused by complications like leg ulcers and thrombosis can severely restrict mobility and daily activities. This leads to decreased life satisfaction. Furthermore, the ongoing discomfort and potential visibility of these complications can lead to psychological stress and social stigmatization. As such we recommend reaching out to medical experts as they would be able to prescribe adequate remedies and treatments to help you.

Various treatments are available depending on the severity of the varicose veins. These include sclerotherapy, laser ablation, and surgery. It is important to see a doctor, particularly a vascular specialist or vascular surgeon if experiencing symptoms such as pain, swelling, skin changes, or signs of ulcers or blood clots. Typically, medical professionals would recommend wearing compression stockings to help maintain blood flow and reduce the buildup of blood in the veins. This decreases the pressure and swelling. Additionally, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, elevating the legs, and avoiding prolonged periods of standing or sitting can help alleviate symptoms and prevent the worsening of the condition.

Varicose Vein Treatment Options and Diagnosis

Varicose Vein Treatment Options and Diagnosis

Initially, the diagnosis begins with a physical examination, where a doctor will visually inspect the patient’s legs while they are standing to check for swelling, vein color, and any visible distortions in the vein pattern. For a more detailed analysis, a vascular ultrasound may be used to assess how blood flows and the structure of the veins. This non-invasive test uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the veins to help identify any abnormalities in blood flow and valve function.

Varicose vein treatment options start with compression stockings and lifestyle changes. If the symptoms are more severe and could cause more serious health issues, the doctor might recommend sclerotherapy, laser treatments, surgery, catheter-assisted procedures, or radiofrequency ablation. 

Non-surgical Treatment Options

Non-surgical Treatment Options

For most patients dealing with varicose veins, non-surgical treatment options can be highly effective in managing symptoms and preventing further complications. These treatments primarily focus on improving circulation, reducing pressure in the veins, and minimizing discomfort. They include the use of compression stockings for blood clots and making some lifestyle changes.

Compression stockings are specially designed to apply consistent pressure to the legs. This pressure supports the veins and helps the muscles and veins move blood more efficiently toward the heart. Compression stockings are effective in managing symptoms like swelling, pain, and the feeling of heaviness in the legs. They are also beneficial in preventing the progression of varicose veins and can reduce the risk of complications such as blood clots.

Likewise, lifestyle changes like exercise, diet, and leg elevation can help manage the underlying causes of varicose veins by reducing the pressure on veins and improving overall blood circulation. They are particularly necessary for preventing the development of new varicose veins or worsening of existing ones.

Minimally Invasive Procedures

Minimally Invasive Procedures

Minimally invasive procedures have become increasingly popular in the treatment of varicose veins due to their effectiveness. They also have reduced recovery times and give minimal discomfort compared to traditional surgery. 

These procedures include: 

  1. Sclerotherapy: This procedure involves injecting a solution directly into the varicose veins, causing them to scar and close. This forces blood to reroute through healthier veins, and the treated vein eventually fades or disappears. Sclerotherapy is very effective in eliminating small veins. It typically improves the appearance of the veins significantly within weeks, although sometimes multiple treatments are needed.
  2. Laser Treatments: Here, a very small fiber is inserted into the vein, and pulses of laser light are delivered inside the vein. This causes the vein to collapse and seal shut. This treatment is especially effective for larger varicose veins. 
  3. Venography and Venous Stenting: Venography & Venous stenting involves injecting a contrast dye into the veins. It is then imaged by X-rays to diagnose blockages or abnormalities in blood flow. In cases where significant blockage is found, venous stenting may be performed to keep the vein open. This procedure helps in diagnosing and treating more complex vascular issues, such as deep vein thrombosis or chronic venous insufficiency.

For more severe cases, surgical options may be needed. These options include vein stripping and ligation, ambulatory phlebectomy, vascular bypass, etc. These surgical methods are more invasive and require longer recovery times. However, they are necessary for advanced cases where less invasive methods might not suffice.

Preventive Measures and Lifestyle Modifications

Preventive Measures and Lifestyle Modifications

Some daily habits that can help prevent or slow the progression of varicose veins include wearing compression hose, regularly elevating your legs above the level of your heart, movement breaks, etc. 

In addition, regular exercise that involves the legs like walking, cycling, or swimming, can strengthen your leg muscles and improve circulation. Furthermore, excess body weight puts additional pressure on your veins. Therefore, it helps to maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.

If you’re at risk of developing varicose veins or start noticing symptoms, schedule an evaluation with a vascular specialist or vein specialist. Depending on the severity and progression of your varicose veins, follow-up visits might be recommended every 6 to 12 months or more frequently if symptoms worsen. Regular check-ups allow your healthcare provider to monitor the progression of the condition and adjust treatment plans as needed. 

If you have these Symptoms Contact CACVI Today!

If you are experiencing leg pain and swelling, or notice some changes in the skin appearance of your legs or the appearance of leg ulcers, you should contact a healthcare provider as soon as possible. Additionally, if your varicose veins are causing you discomfort that interferes with your daily life know that that is also a reason to seek medical help. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the condition from worsening and lead to better health outcomes.

Don’t wait for your symptoms to become more severe. At CACVI, we offer comprehensive diagnostic procedures for endovascular and cardiovascular evaluation. We are a Center for Advanced Cardiac and Vascular Interventions in LA that can help you manage your varicose veins. 

Contact us now to schedule your evaluation! Our expert doctors are always here for you!

CONTACT CACVI

If you were told you need an amputation, get a second opinion! We are board certified consultants in endovascular interventions committed to improving the quality of your life and the lives of those you love!

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