Varicose veins aren’t the only signs that your veins are in trouble. Venous insufficiency can unfold in stages.
Varicose veins will affect around 35 percent of U.S. adults at some point in their lives. But all too often, early signs of venous insufficiency go unnoticed as people mistakenly think that the thick, bulging veins are the only symptoms of the vascular disorder.
Venous insufficiency (vein disease) can develop before varicose veins appear. Suppose you notice any unusual changes in your legs, such as leg cramping and heaviness, even without visible varicose veins. In that case, you should consult with a physician at Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) for diagnosis and treatment. The earlier you start treatment for your veins, the better your chances are of stopping vein disease progression.
What causes varicose veins?
Varicose veins form when blood does not circulate properly in the body. You probably already know that arteries carry oxygenated blood from your heart to your tissues and organs while veins return deoxygenated blood to your heart. But did you know that the valves in your leg veins play a big part in this effort? With the help of muscle contractions in the calves, these valves close and prevent blood from backsliding into the vein.
However, due to age and genetics, these valves can weaken and cause blood to pool within the vein. As more blood collects and pushes the vein walls to stretch outward, a varicose vein forms.
Although varicose veins can strike in anyone, women face a higher risk from hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause. A sedentary lifestyle and obesity also significantly increase one’s chances of developing varicose veins.
How to identify the early stages of varicose veins
Venous insufficiency, the root cause of varicose veins, is a progressive disease that can worsen in stages. Understanding how to identify the initial signs can lead you to early treatment.
Swelling. Unusual swelling in your legs and feet could be the first sign of improper blood circulation. Other conditions such as lymphedema, kidney disease, or heart disease can also cause excessive swelling or edema. A vein specialist can perform an ultrasound examination to determine if the swelling is caused by blood pooling in your veins.
Visible Veins. During this early stage, you may notice visible blue and purple reticular veins between 1 and 3 millimeters in diameter or thin red spider veins that are less than 1 millimeter in diameter. While these veins will not protrude from the skin as a varicose vein would, they may soon develop into varicose veins if left untreated.
Unusual Sensations in Your Legs. Aching and cramping legs, particularly when you sit for long periods, may indicate blood is backing up in the veins. You may also experience tingling, burning, or itching sensations. To check if the problem results from improper blood flow in the leg veins, elevate your legs and see if these symptoms diminish.
Tired, Heavy Legs. As blood continues to pool in the leg veins, your legs may feel increasingly tired and heavy by the end of each day.
Skin Changes. Persistent pressure within the veins dilates your veins, forcing red blood cells to leak out of the veins. This process inflames your skin, causing patches of discolored skin or dry, leathery spots that could break into open sores.
Malfunctioning veins may reside deeper within your legs, so even if you don’t see visible varicose veins, you may still experience pain and swelling. These signs are your veins signaling that they aren’t functioning properly and need treatment. Fortunately, various treatments are available today that require just a brief doctor’s visit and minimal downtime.
Treating your varicose veins
Leaving varicose veins untreated leads to increased pain and swelling and other complications, such as skin ulcers and blood clots. Today’s minimally invasive surgical procedures and conservative home remedies are designed to alleviate symptoms and eliminate your varicose veins.
Surgical Techniques. CVR offers several outpatient surgical procedures to eliminate varicose veins. Sclerotherapy is one of the most popular treatments for spider veins and smaller varicose veins. During this procedure, the doctor injects a safe solution called a sclerosant into the damaged vein, causing the vein walls to scar and collapse. Blood then diverts to healthier veins.
During laser ablation, the doctor destroys the diseased vein by pulsing laser heat through a catheter. Radiofrequency ablation is similar, except the doctor uses heat from radiofrequency waves rather than laser. Ambulatory phlebectomy involves removing larger varicose veins via two tiny incisions. Only local anesthesia is needed before the surgery, so your recovery time will be brief with few restrictions.
Conservative Methods. Although not a cure for varicose veins, conservative therapies can reduce the pain and swelling and may prevent new varicose veins from forming. Wearing compression stocking is one of the most effective conservative methods. The highly elastic stockings gently squeeze your leg veins to promote blood flow. You may also find raising your legs above your heart for as little as 15 minutes each day can alleviate symptoms.
If you believe you’re at risk for varicose veins but haven’t noticed any bulging veins yet, you can take steps now to prevent or slow the progression of venous insufficiency. Self-care tips such as maintaining your weight at an ideal level, exercising regularly, and sticking to a high-fiber, low-sodium diet are the key to having healthy veins.
Don’t wait until it’s too late
Center for Vein Restoration operates two full-service vein treatment facilities in New Hampshire. Both are led by Normand Miller, MD, FACS, RPVI, RVT, a board-certified vascular surgeon with years of experience in treating vein disorders. Don’t delay treatment if you’re having symptoms of vein disease. Contact him today for an evaluation of your veins!
410 Amherst Street, Suite 200
Nashua, NH 03063
224 Main Street, Suite 1-D
Salem, NH 03079