What Causes Varicose Veins?
Tens of millions of people—up to 40% of women and 25% of men—suffer from varicose veins. While they may form anywhere on the body, varicose veins typically occur on the legs or feet. For many, they appear as purplish, enlarged veins that twist like a rope. For others, there may not be obvious physical signs of swollen veins but there will be symptoms such as swelling, aching, restlessness, or heaviness in the legs. Sometimes these symptoms progress to the point that it’s difficult to carry on with daily activities, particularly if one’s profession requires a great deal of standing or sitting.
So what causes these problematic and sometimes unsightly varicose veins? The top risk factor, hands down, is heredity. If one of your parents has varicose veins you have a 40% likelihood of developing them. If both of your parents have them you have an 80% chance of developing diseased veins.
Gender also plays a large role in your risk of developing varicose veins. Women develop varicose veins twice as often as men due to the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which relax the thin muscle layer in the walls of the veins. Plus, pregnancy increases pressure on the veins which aggravates the problem. Aside from genetics and gender, working in occupations that require you to be on your feet for long periods of time can increase the risk of developing varicose veins.
The reason varicose veins often form in the legs is because one-way valves inside the leg veins are designed to keep blood moving upward to the heart. These valves work to push the blood against gravity back to the heart, but when the valves weaken, blood is allowed to pool in the vein. Over time, the blood that has been pooling causes the vein to swell which leads to the symptoms of fatigue, restlessness, aching, and swelling in the leg. For some, varicose veins can also lead to discoloration of the leg, skin ulcers, bleeding, or clotting.
Varicose Veins that are visible on the surface of the skin are usually the tip of the iceberg, as much of vein disease is hidden. Other diseased veins that feed into the visible varicose veins lie deeper in the skin. Ultrasound imaging is required to see beneath the skin to map out the entire network of vein disease. A complete ultrasonic diagnosis is essential to finding the root source of vein disease and determining a comprehensive treatment plan.
Varicose veins are progressive and chronic, meaning they will not improve or go away on their own over time. Many people live with the discomfort of varicose veins for years because they’ve heard horror stories of how their grandmother or parent endured a painful vein “stripping” procedure to alleviate their varicose veins.
However, medical advances have brought the treatment of varicose veins a long way. In fact, you could even say varicose vein treatments are “light” years ahead of where it once they once were thanks to the laser procedures that are commonly used today. In fact, most varicose vein procedures are completed in the doctor’s office in under an hour, and require no or little down-time.
If you’re ready to be free from varicose veins and restore the vitality and appearance of your legs, Dr. Andrew Douglass and his staff at the East Tennessee Vein Clinic are waiting for you.
During your initial 30-45 minute consultation, your legs will be screened with a painless ultrasound device to determine the extent of your varicose vein disease. You’ll be advised on which treatments options would best suit your case, and will receive a detailed report describing your diagnosis as a courtesy to your primary care physician. Varicose vein treatment procedures are typically covered by insurance following a three month period of wearing compression stockings, so you’ll be instructed about what to do during that time period as well.
Treating veins is all we do at East Tennessee Vein Clinic. As the first clinic dedicated solely to the treatment of vein disease, East Tennessee Vein Clinic leads the region in experience and expertise. We treat veins differently than other clinics because we care about getting to the root cause of each patient’s vein disease, and our results prove that this level of dedication is worth it.