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Some of us have more prominent veins than others. But when your veins appear swollen, twisted, or darkly colored, you may be suffering from varicose veins. Varicose veins affect 1 in 4 adults and can range from merely unsightly to downright dangerous. But what exactly are varicose veins, and what can be done about them?

What Causes Varicose Veins?

In the simplest terms, varicose veins are veins that are swollen with blood. Your veins have valves that keep your blood flowing toward your heart. When those veins become damaged or weakened, blood can back-up behind them and pool in your veins, causing them to swell. When this happens, they protrude from the skin and appear twisted, enlarged, and bluish in color. They are often called “spider veins” when they are mild thanks to their webbed appearance.

Varicose veins are most common in the legs, ankles and feet. That’s because the pressure in the veins of your lower body is increased when you stand or walk. Any vein can become varicose. For example, hemorrhoids are a form of varicose veins that form in the rectum. They can also occur in the stomach, esophagus, liver or testicles.

What are the symptoms of varicose veins?

The most common sign of varicose veins is their dark, bulging appearance. Many varicose veins cause no other symptoms. If left untreated, varicose veins can cause:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Pain
  • Dull aching
  • Feelings of heaviness or tiredness in the limbs
  • Changes in skin color
  • Nighttime skin cramps or restlessness

Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Your symptoms may get worse when you sit or stand for long periods. 

Am I at risk for varicose veins?

Varicose veins are very common, affecting over 23% of adults. They occur more often in women than in men. Experts are not sure what causes varicose veins, but some potential risk factors include menopause, pregnancy, obesity, family history, and being over 50. You may also be at increased risk of varicose veins if you are taking certain medications, are inactive for long periods, or smoke.

How do you treat varicose veins?

Many varicose veins need no treatment for health reasons, but they may indicate an underlying condition so they should always be evaluated by a medical professional. Your physician will diagnose varicose veins by doing a physical examination and reviewing your lifestyle, family history, and symptoms. They may also use imaging like an ultrasound to determine the health of your veins.

Treatment for varicose veins can range from lifestyle changes to surgery. Being more active, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking are common ways to combat varicose veins. Your physician may also suggest compression therapy, which improves circulation.

If your varicose veins are severe, you may need surgical treatment. Most procedures involve closing off the vein to prevent blood flow. Once the vein is closed, blood will re-route to healthy veins nearby. For a look at the most common surgical treatments, visit our services page.

Each patient is different. The physicians at Vascular Associates of South Alabama will work with you to determine the most appropriate course of treatment for your needs.

If you think you may be suffering from varicose veins, give us a call at 251-410-8272. Our expert vascular physicians can diagnose and treat your varicose veins to make you comfortable and keep you in optimal health. Plus, most of our procedures are minimally invasive and can be done right on-site in our Mobile, AL facility. Contact us today!

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