What Medical Condition Causes Varicose Veins?

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
Blog What Medical Condition Causes Varicose Veins

The most common medical condition associated with varicose veins is chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), a form of vein disease. CVI occurs when the valves in the leg veins, which normally prevent blood from flowing backward, become weak or damaged. As a result, blood can flow in the wrong direction and pool in the veins, causing them to become enlarged and twisted. Learn more about varicose vein disease, including risk factors, how to prevent it, and how to correct problem leg veins.

What is chronic venous insufficiency?

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a prevalent condition where the leg veins struggle to send blood back to the heart. Under normal circumstances, one-way valves in the veins ensure blood flow towards the heart. However, when an individual has CVI, these valves are compromised or damaged, leading to blood pooling or collecting in the veins. This pooling of blood causes the veins to become enlarged and twisted and leads to the formation of varicose veins.

According to the National Library of Medicine (NIH), chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) often causes pain, swelling, varicose veins, skin changes, and, in severe cases, open sores called ulcers. Discomfort tends to worsen after prolonged periods of standing or sitting.

What exactly are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins that usually appear near the skin's surface, most commonly in the legs. Per the Mayo Clinic, any vein close to the skin's surface (superficial) can become varicose (swollen and twisted).

Varicose veins have a bulging, rope-like, or gnarled appearance and are often blue or dark purple in color. These dysfunctional veins develop when the one-way valves within the veins, designed to prevent the backward flow of blood, become weakened or damaged. As a result, blood pools and accumulates in the affected veins, causing them to enlarge and become visible through the skin.

Varicose vein disease can be a medical problem—not just a cosmetic issue. Per Johns Hopkins Medicine, varicose veins can cause physical symptoms such as pain, aching, swelling, burning, rash, and a feeling of heaviness in the legs. If left untreated, varicose veins can lead to more serious health issues, such as deep vein thrombosis, nonhealing sores, and venous stasis ulcers. If you suspect you have varicose veins or are experiencing any of these symptoms, it's essential to consult a board-certified vein expert for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management.

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What are the risk factors for developing varicose veins?

Several factors can contribute to weakened vein valves, which lead to blood pooling and twisted, painful, enlarged veins. Some of the key risk factors for varicose veins are:

  1. Age: Aging causes wear and tear on the valves in the veins, leading to valve dysfunction and blood pooling, which can contribute to the development of varicose veins.
  2. Gender: Women are more likely to develop varicose veins, partly due to hormonal changes associated with puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.
  3. Pregnancy: The increased blood volume and pressure on the veins during pregnancy can lead to the development of varicose veins.
  4. Family History: A genetic predisposition to weak vein valves and poor vein wall function can increase the risk of varicose veins.
  5. Obesity and BMI: Excess weight and obesity can put added pressure on the veins, leading to valve damage and vein enlargement.
  6. Lifestyle Factors: Prolonged standing or sitting, lack of exercise, and smoking can contribute to developing varicose veins.

It's important to be aware of these risk factors and take preventive measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and avoiding prolonged periods of sitting or standing, to reduce the risk of developing varicose veins.

Are there complications of untreated varicose veins?

The complications of untreated varicose veins can be significant and may include:

  1. Ulcers: Painful venous ulcers can form on the skin near varicose veins, particularly near the ankles. A discolored spot on the skin usually begins before an ulcer forms.
  2. Blood Clots: Occasionally, veins deep within the legs become enlarged and might cause leg pain and swelling. Seek medical attention for persistent leg pain or swelling because it can indicate a blood clot.

A blood clot can be a medical emergency! If visiting the emergency room isn't an option, Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) offers DVT rule-out services, allowing patients to bypass the ER line. With CVR, you can expect:

  • Same-day evaluation and diagnosis for potential deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Prompt notification of results on the same day
  • Immediate initiation of anticoagulation medication if needed
  • Ongoing follow-up care until anticoagulation medication can be discontinued

For Center for Vein Restoration DVT rule-out service, call us at 240-965-3915.

  1. Bleeding: Occasionally, veins close to the skin burst, causing minor bleeding that requires prompt medical attention.
  2. Lipodermatosclerosis: This condition can lead to a chronic venous leg ulcer, which is challenging to heal if left untreated.
  3. Hyperpigmentation: The skin near untreated varicose veins can become discolored, waxy, and thin, taking on a darker, bruised pigmentation over time.
  4. Thrombophlebitis: A condition in which swelling (inflammation) occurs in veins located in areas with poor blood flow. Symptoms often caused by a blood clot (thrombus) in the vein include swelling, pain, skin redness (not always present, per Penn Medicine), and warmth and tenderness over the vein.
  5. Venous Leg Ulcers: Untreated varicose veins can lead to the development of venous leg ulcers, which are painful and may require medical intervention
  6. Deep Vein Thrombosis: Blood clots in the deep veins of the legs can cause pain and swelling and may lead to severe complications such as pulmonary embolism.

It's essential to be aware of these potential complications and seek medical attention if you have varicose veins, especially if you experience symptoms such as leg ulcers, persistent pain, or swelling. Timely intervention and appropriate management can help prevent or address these serious health issues associated with untreated varicose veins.

Center for Vein Restoration can help!

Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) is America's largest physician-led vein center, with 120+ locations nationwide. We radically improve 200,000+ lives annually by providing safe, personalized, and positive outpatient treatment options for vein disease. We offer a variety of nearly pain-free solutions to eliminate unsightly and uncomfortable veins, consistently earning a 98 percent patient satisfaction rate! And we can help you too.

How is chronic venous insufficiency treated?

The treatment for chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) typically involves a combination of lifestyle modifications, conservative measures, and, in some cases, minimally invasive medical procedures. The main goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms, reduce discomfort, and prevent complications associated with CVI.

Here are some treatment options available for chronic venous insufficiency:

Lifestyle Changes: This includes leg elevation, regular exercise to improve the calf muscle pump, and weight management to reduce the pressure on the veins.

Compression Therapy: Wearing compression stockings is a cornerstone of CVI treatment. These elastic garments help improve blood flow in the leg veins and reduce swelling.

Minimally Invasive Outpatient Procedures: Your vein doctor may recommend a medical procedure to address CVI. Treatment options include:

  • Sclerotherapy: Injection of a solution into the problem vein to scar and close it, forcing blood to flow through healthier veins
  • Endovenous Thermal Ablation: Using high-frequency radio waves or a laser to heat and close the problem vein.
  • Varithena: This non-surgical treatment involves a small injection of microfoam that causes the affected veins to collapse, and blood flow redirects to healthy vessels.

Tackle chronic venous insufficiency at Center for Vein Restoration!

At CVR, individuals with chronic venous insufficiency work closely with our vein care specialists to develop a customized treatment plan based on the severity of their condition, overall health, and specific needs. By following the recommended treatment strategies, our patients can effectively manage CVI and improve the look and feel of their legs— and their quality of life.

Call 240-965-3915 to speak to a Patient Services Representative or schedule your consultation online at a CVR near you today.

CVR accepts many insurances, including Aetna, Amerigroup, Anthem, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, MultiPlan, Medicaid, Medicare, and more.

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