The term “varicose veins” usually conjures images of ugly bluish web-like veins that are lifted underneath the skin. These veins are typically treated as a cosmetic issue and not necessarily a health one. However, varicose veins can affect vascular health and should never be ignored.
What are varicose veins? And how do they occur?
Most commonly occurring in the legs, varicose veins are contorted veins that swell forcing the veins to press up against the skin. The added pressure against the skin is what causes their bluish uplifted appearance. There are a few different ways varicose veins can form; being overweight, vein wear and tear from aging, damage to the vein’s valves or walls, blood pressure increases from stress and or pregnancy.
Although varicose veins are rarely life threatening, there are 5 main signs your body will give that it’s time to take your vascular health more seriously.
5 Main Signs
- Experiencing unusual leg fatigue and/or pain. I’m sure you’re asking, what is considered unusual? This type of leg fatigue happens after walking or standing for a certain amount of time. The longer you walk or stand, the more sore and heavier your legs will feel to lift. This becomes more noticeable as it begins to interfere with your daily routine. You will start to notice labored movements in your lower limbs that are typically only relieved after resting with your feet up. Almost as if you did intense squats you weren’t aware of.
- Falling asleep with swollen legs but waking up back to normal. If you find yourself constantly trying to put your feet up or needing to lay down from swollen ankles or calves, you may be experiencing a vascular issue. There are multiple medical conditions that can cause swelling in the legs. However, varicose veins can cause swelling to occur in a more centered location, usually in the lower legs closer to the ankles. This kind of vascular swelling can be accompanied with leg cramps, leg heaviness, and skin discoloration. You may also experience sharp nerve-like pains in the uplifted veins.
- Dry itchy skin near or on your bulging veins. Do you ever catch yourself scratching a swollen area like you were bit by a mosquito, but there’s never any bite? Varicose veins can cause the skin surrounding them to dry out, leaving the skin permanently discolored. This level of irritation occurs from high pressure in the veins that result in poor nutrition and lack of oxygen to the skin. Overtime, this can lead to an extremely painful and difficult to heal venous leg ulcer.
- Vein problems during pregnancy. For most women, varicose veins are common during pregnancy. However, if you already experienced vascular complications with your first pregnancy and plan on having more, vein complications can become more serious with each one. Hormonal changes, increased blood flow, and genetics are three of the most common reasons varicose veins occur in pregnant women. There is a lot of pressure on the main artery that carries blood from your feet back up to your heart. This pressure can cause damage resulting in varicose veins.
- Severe redness, inflammation, and sharp pains directly around the varicose veins. If you’re currently experiencing these symptoms, it’s highly recommended you see a vein doctor right away. These can be signs of a Superficial Thrombophlebitis or a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). A Superficial Thrombophlebitis is a blood clot that develops due to long term swelling and cuts off blood flow through the vein. This is not life threatening but will require treatment. A DVT however, is life threatening. These always begin in the legs and will need testing to diagnose. After receiving a diagnosis, blood thinners will be required to break the blood clot and prevent more from occurring in the future.
If you have had or are currently experiencing any of these symptoms with or around your varicose veins, it may be time you see a vein doctor. There are effective non-invasive treatments available to help ease the pain and discomfort caused from varicose veins that can also prevent potential health risks down the road.
It’s time to stop living with varicose pain and start taking your vascular health seriously.