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Are varicose veins dangerous?

Are varicose veins dangerous?

Varicose veins are the woes of anyone who loves having their legs out in shorts or in dresses. Those bluish knobby veins can blemish your skin and make you uncomfortable showing your legs out in public. In some cases, varicose veins can also cause significant pain and swelling of the legs, which can greatly impede your health and daily routine.

Fortunately, there are already several proven approaches of either preventing or treating your varicose vein problems. But the first step of dealing with varicose veins is learning more about them. This article will serve as your guide to learn more about what causes varicose veins, what factors make you more prone to developing these knobby veins, and what procedures are available to help you avoid or get rid of them for good.

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are the general term for veins that become enlarged, abnormally thick, or twisty in appearance. They usually appear on the legs, particularly on the thighs, on the back of the calves, and on the inside of the legs.

Varicose veins are veins that have damaged or weakened valves. In normal, healthy veins, these valves prevent blood passing through from flowing in the opposite direction. When the valves get weakened, blood can then flow backwards and accumulate in the vein, building up pressure internally.

Through time, this leads to the vein getting swollen or enlarged, becoming a varicose vein.

There are different types of varicose veins, depending on their appearance:

Trunk varicose veins are what often comes to mind when thinking about varicose veins. Trunk veins are the thick (around 3 mm in diameter) and knobbly veins that become bluish or purplish in appearance. Because they appear near the surface, they form unsightly bulges underneath the skin.


Reticular varicose veins are thinner (1 mm to 3 mm), blue-green veins that usually appear clustered together in a network. They are smaller than trunk veins and appear flatter and less twisty. When reticular veins are connected to the smaller spider veins, they are also sometimes called “feeder veins”.

Spider veins, also known as thread veins, are smaller (less than 1 mm) veins that appear as short, jagged lines on the skin, usually in pink, red, or bluish purple. Spider veins are considered a milder form and the most common type of varicose vein. Sometimes, they can also appear in a larger network with reticular veins.

What are the risk factors for varicose veins?

More than 23% of individuals (or about 1 in every 4 individuals) develop varicose veins during their adulthood. However, different risk factors make some people more likely to get varicose veins than others.

Aging

Varicose veins are one of the many dreaded signs of aging. As you get older, your veins start losing their elasticity and their valves get weakened, leading to varicose veins and other venous conditions.

Gender

Women are twice more likely to be affected by varicose veins than their male counterparts. It is suggested that this is due to the female hormones which tend to relax the venal walls and make the valves more prone to leaking.
Consequently, being pregnant or taking hormonal medications such as birth control makes you more likely to develop varicose veins, as well.

Being overweight

The veins experience much more pressure in carrying blood in people that are overweight or obese. This extra pressure weakens the valves, leading to varicose veins.

Lifestyle habits

People who stay seated or standing for long periods of time - whether by occupation or by habit - develop varicose veins much more frequently. When you stay inactive for prolonged periods, the blood does not flow as easily, again exerting unnecessary pressure on the veins.

Family history

The risk for varicose veins also runs in the family. If you have a close family member that also experiences knobbly veins, you are more likely to develop them yourself.

When should I be concerned about varicose veins?

In most cases, varicose veins are harmless and do not require any immediate medical attention when they appear on the legs.  They are often benign conditions and do not signify other severe venous diseases. Most people who want to treat their varicose veins  do it for cosmetic reasons. Especially when they're thick and visibly discolored, varicose veins may appear quite unsightly, prompting people to want to get rid of them.

However, some individuals with a severe case of varicose veins experience some symptoms, and treatment may be needed to address these symptoms and prevent further complications. Treatment for varicose veins is necessary if you experience symptoms like:

  • Swelling

  • Itching

  • Frequent aching and muscle cramps

  • Burning or throbbing sensation

  • Severe skin discoloration

  • Difficulty in moving the legs


 
When left untreated, severe varicose veins can become very bothersome and impede your normal lifestyle, such as leading you to have trouble walking or sleeping at night.

In serious cases, untreated varicose veins can bring out various complications, such as edema in the ankles, leg ulcers, or other venous diseases. In very rare cases, the varicose veins may even rupture and cause serious internal bleeding. While these situations are rare, they still need to be kept in mind.  

Is it fine to remove my varicose veins even if it does not pose any medical concern to me?

Due to the changing times as well as the influx of information from social networking platforms, the aesthetic standards of the general public has become more refined and strict. However, many may argue that beauty and aesthetic standards vary from one person to another. Nevertheless, each and every person still strives to achieve their most beautiful and perfect self.


Varicose veins are generally thick and unsightly especially when wearing clothes that are quite revealing and short. Plenty of people want to undergo treatment to remove their varicose veins purely for cosmetic and aesthetic reasons regardless if it poses some medical concerns or not. And that is fine. Varicose veins are usually harmless so people can choose to remove them to achieve that perfect and flawless skin without any worries about repercussions to their health. Once removed, you can proudly strut your stuff and show them those flawless and long legs. After all looking at beautiful, perfect and lovely things can always improve our mood which can eventually improve our quality of life.


What are the home remedies for varicose veins?

In most cases, varicose veins do not immediately require medical attention, but there are some procedures that you can do at home to help ease minor varicose veins or prevent them from appearing.

Lifestyle changes

A few lifestyle changes and self-care routines can be introduced to prevent varicose veins from developing or worsening. The key is to find simple ways to improve the circulation of blood in the legs throughout the day. Some examples are:

  • Regular exercise

  • Elevating the legs when resting

  • Avoid prolonged soaking in hot baths 

  • If you stand for long periods, try taking a break every 30 minutes

  • If you sit for long periods, try walking around every 30 minutes 


Compression stockings

Compression stockings are snug, specially-made stockings that steadily squeeze the legs when worn, improving circulation. Compression stockings are tight around the ankles and slowly loosens further up the leg, and they are designed in such a way that it promotes proper blood flow in the legs.

Not everyone can wear compression stockings because of their blood circulation, so it is recommended that you consult with your doctor first to confirm whether you are allowed to wear compression stockings.


There are readily available compression stockings in pharmacies and medical supply stores. You can also get prescription-strength stockings after a consultation with your doctor, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms.


What are the medical treatments for varicose veins?

If you experience significant symptoms for your varicose veins even after home remedies, or if you’re looking to get rid of these nasty veins for cosmetic reasons, a visit to your dermatologist can help you deal with your vein problems.
Thankfully, scientific advances have made varicose vein treatment quick and non-invasive, and are now usually done on an outpatient basis.


Consulting with a trusted, board-certified dermatologist is recommended so that they can recommend which medical treatment will work best for your situation, and they can create a comprehensive recovery plan to achieve the best results after treatment.


Sclerotherapy

Sclerotherapy is the most common treatment for getting rid of the different types of varicose veins. As a non-surgical treatment, sclerotherapy delivers great and reliable results of fading away varicose veins.


This procedure makes use of a chemical (a liquid solution or a foam) that seals the veins closed. This chemical is injected into the veins, which causes the venal walls to stick together, closing the vein, and preventing blood from flowing through it anymore.


After undergoing sclerotherapy, you will usually be advised by your dermatologist to keep the circulation going by taking daily walks and wearing compression stockings for a couple of weeks.

After sclerotherapy, smaller varicose veins like spider veins and reticulated veins usually disappear after 3 to 6 weeks. For trunk varicose veins, it can take 3 to 4 months to completely fade the bulging veins.  

Laser treatment

Another trusted non-surgical treatment for varicose veins is laser therapy. Your dermatologist will use strong bursts of laser light directed toward the vein, which trigger it to fade and disappear.

Laser treatments are recommended for treating spider veins and small reticulated veins, which may disappear immediately or a few days after treatment. Larger varicose veins may initially darken after laser therapy, but will gradually start to disappear after 1 to 3 months. 

Three or more sessions of laser therapy may be needed to get a complete clearing of varicose veins. 

There are a variety of lasers that can be used for treatments of veins. HOO Dermatology specifically offers Cutera Laser which is a long-pulsed ND:YAG Laser Treatment for people who want to remove their varicose veins.

What is ND:YAG laser treatment?

This treatment uses ND:YAG or neodynium-doped yttrium aluminium garnet. It is a crystal that is used as a laser medium for the laser. The ND:YAG laser can reach a deeper layer of skin tissue compared to other types of lasers. ND:YAG lasers can also switch into two wavelengths depending on which layer you want the veins or lesions to be removed.

Wondering how ND:YAG Laser Treatment works? Easy. This treatment will use the high energy light that was emitted by the laser to create heat and coagulate the blood inside the veins which will cause it to collapse and seal. The collapsed vein will naturally disappear and the body will remove the coagulated blood by itself. If you're worried about the laser damaging the other parts of your body, worry not! The ND:YAG laser can deliver the exact energy needed to solve your problematic cells without injuring the other parts of your body.


Although sclerotherapy is still the gold standard for varicose vein treatment, the ND:YAG Laser is running second. It is proven to have a >70% clearance similar to the clearance of regular sclerotherapy. And there's also no need to use anesthesia with this treatment.
 
Varicose veins need not stop you from showing off those legs and feeling confident out in public. More so, these veins need not compromise your quality of life if you experience symptoms such as aching and swelling. By practicing some self-care routines like exercise and having a reliable dermatologist, you can have a leg up on these troubling veins and keep them at bay.