Venous insufficiency and varicose veins are medical conditions that affect both women and men in the United States. Venous insufficiency or reflux occurs when the valves of the veins are weakened, damaged, or absent. Normally, veins which carry blood back to the heart against gravity, contain one-way valves to prevent blood from flowing backwards. When the valves weaken, blood collects in the veins and pooled blood enlarges the veins. This increases pressure in the venous (vein) system and leads to varicose veins. Some of the most common factors that contribute to varicose vein formation are:
Family history (“Family Veins”) – Many of the choices we make in life can lead to varicose veins or aggravate them. However, it’s not necessarily your choice or your fault alone – family history is often a factor. If your close relatives have varicose veins, it may only be a matter of time until you develop them too, despite all the good things you may do for your health like not smoking, making sure you eat right and getting regular exercise.
Pregnancy (“Mommy Veins”) – During pregnancy, your body goes through monumental physical and hormonal changes. Most of them are temporary, but your new varicose veins may not be. Pregnancy makes you more susceptible to this health problem because, as your baby grows, the uterus puts increased pressure on your veins. Hormonal changes can also cause the walls of the veins to relax. These factors can combine to cause the one-way valve in one or more veins to stop working properly. As a result, blood that should return to the heart pools and stagnates instead. The result can be the heavy, itchy, uncomfortable feeling of varicose veins.
Your job (“Work Veins”) – If you stand on your feet all day, you may be paying a price – achy, tired, heavy legs caused by varicose veins. Blood in your veins has to fight gravity to return to your heart. Therefore, when you’re on your feet for hours at a time, especially standing in one place, that blood has an even harder time making its way back up through the body. It can flow backwards and begin pooling, and that’s what leads to varicose veins.
Weight problems (“Heavy Veins”) – Being overweight puts added pressure on the entire body – veins included. Increased pressure can cause the veins to enlarge and damage the valves that keep blood flowing toward the heart. Often people with weight problems are not getting regular exercise, which can lead to circulation problems and make varicose veins even worse.
The good news is varicose veins can now be treated with a minimally invasive in-office procedure. It takes less than one-hour to eliminate those painful, heavy, tired, restless or swollen legs. In most cases the patient can go back to work the same day. The simple, easy procedure is achieved by using either radiofrequency ablation or laser ablation of the diseased veins. This procedure is a welcome change from the agonizing vein stripping procedure, which was done in a hospital and required weeks of painful recovery. The procedure is even covered by most insurance plans. Ask your local vein specialist or ask your primary care doctor for a referral and start imagining the ways you could love your legs again.