Do you have enlarged, swollen leg veins with a dark purple or blue color? Are these veins lumpy and twisted? If so, you have varicose veins. So, it makes sense to learn what causes varicose veins and discover their symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. This investigation will help you know when the right time to see a veins specialist doctor near you comes.
Signs that you have varicose veins
Also known as varicosities or varices, these abnormal veins are easy to detect because of their size and appearance. However, they tend to cause other symptoms. Until you visit a veins specialist doctor, you may not suspect that your symptoms are triggered by varicosities. They include:
- Discomfort, heaviness and ache in the legs
- Bulging and swollen ankles and feet
- Muscle cramps affecting legs at night
- Throbbing and/or burning pain in the legs
- Skin dryness, itching and thinning over the areas that have varicose veins.
These signs can worsen during summer months and that’s when most people start to look into what causes varicose veins on their legs. The symptoms can also get worse when you have been sitting down or standing up for several hours. When you take a walk or elevate your legs, these symptoms could subside. During early exposure to these, your doctor could successfully offer you laser vein treatment.
Why do some people live with varicose veins?
Some people know that they have varicosities but they ignore this fact. The reason why they mostly do this is because their varices do not cause them any discomfort. So they don’t see the need to know what causes varicose veins and how it can be controlled. While the condition may not seem serious now, it might worsen in the near future. To be quite specific, it can lead to serious complications that will be so difficult to treat. So, visit a good GP for diagnosis and referral to the best veins specialist doctor. This is particularly if:
- Your abnormal leg veins are painful and uncomfortable
- There is too much ache in the legs at night and it is affecting your sleep
- The skin over the veins is beginning to become irritated and painful.
These signs alone are adequate to help your veins specialist suspect that you might be suffering from varicose veins and needs help. They are highly likely to carry out further testing just to be sure, however.
What causes varicose veins?
The main cause, according to vein doctors, is damaged vein valves. These are small two way flaps located within the veins. If they become weakened or damaged, they will no longer close fully. Hence, they will open to let venous blood through to the next vein and close partially, enabling some of the blood to flow backward. The blood that is flowing backward will eventually gather in a vein and make it swell and enlarge. That’s when you will see varicose veins.
The way some of the blood flows backward and pools in veins is called refluxing. It leads to a condition called venous insufficiency or a venous reflux disease. This is basically what causes varicose veins and the disease is progressive. Having asymptomatic varicosities does not mean that you don’t have venous insufficiency that keeps on worsening. So, every person who has varicose veins should seek medical help as early as they possibly could.
There are other factors that could make you prone to what cause varicose veins and they include the following:
- Your gender. Although both males and females can get varicose veins, females are more vulnerable to these.
- If you have close family members living with varicose veins, chances are that you are prone to them too.
- Men and women of advanced age are so susceptible to varicosities. Women can get them as soon as they enter their fifties or after menopause while men can get them years after their 50s.
- If you are an overweight person, your extra kilos are straining your leg veins and soon you might have varicose veins and spider veins. So, try and cut your weight to avoid these.
- In case your job makes your legs strain a lot, you are much more likely to develop varices. So, find a way to reduce the strain by sitting down every few minutes if you work while standing. On the other hand, stand up every thirty minutes if you work while sitting down.
- Pregnancy. If you are a pregnant woman, your chances of having varices are higher than when you were not pregnant. In fact, you are much more likely to see these in areas you cannot suspect: your buttocks and vulva. These are part of what people like to call joys of motherhood and there is nothing you can do to stop your hormones from causing them. In most cases, however, your pregnancy varicose veins will disappear after giving birth.
- Other health conditions – If you have had a previous blood clot, a tumor or swelling in your pelvis or abnormal blood vessels, you can easily have varicose veins.
Now that you recognize what causes varicose veins, it is good to discover the kinds you are suffering from.
Types of varicose veins
There are usually three types of varicose veins and it is possible to have even two of them at the same time. The worst of all are trunk varicose veins. These are the ones we have described in this article. They are enlarged, swollen and knotted; so, they are so easily detectable and unpleasant to look at.
The next very common types are spider veins or telangiectasias. They are also called thread veins and can appear on the legs, face and hands. These are not dangerous and tend to disappear without laser veins treatment or another type of medical help. Spider veins form in clusters of red or blue veins and can affect a big area.
They don’t bulge under the skin surface as trunk varicose veins do, but can also develop because of defective valves. If you think you have these webbed veins and they are painful and uncomfortable, visit a veins specialist doctor for examination.
The third kind is reticular varicose veins. These almost look like spider veins as they can be closely knit and have a red color. To be able to differentiate the two, ensure you call a reliable veins specialist doctor and make an appointment with them.
Seeing your veins specialist doctor for diagnosis
Once you go to a clinic seeking to know what causes varicose veins in your legs, your physician will carry out a thorough diagnosis. Most importantly, they will know you have them just by observing the way your veins look like. To observe you well, the veins specialist doctor will ask you to stand up or sit with your leg dangling as that’s when varices become more obvious.
If there are signs of vein swelling, they will move to the next step. This entails doing an ultrasound Duplex test as it shows the current condition of the structures inside your veins. If there are faulty valves, the test will reveal them and this will help your veins specialist doctor determine the right form of veins treatment. They might also ask about your medical background and whether there are other members of your family that have varicosities.
Treating symptoms and what causes varicose veins
After diagnosis, your doctor’s next move will be figuring out how to best treat your varicose veins. If they don’t think that your condition is too serious to warrant immediate medical treatment, they might ask you to wear compression stockings for six months. At the same time, they will teach you effective exercises for varicose veins and request you to elevate your legs a few times a day.
About your occupation, your veins specialist doctor might ask you to take regular breaks to avoid worsening your condition. If there will be little or no improvement after this period, you will then be put on medical care. There are a number of techniques that are normally used to treat varicosities and some are less invasive. These are selected first as they are effective and don’t require patient’s hospitalization. Briefly, they include the following:
Endovenous laser ablation (EVLA)
This is an endothermal veins cure and it entails treating varicose veins with laser light. The specialist will first give you a local anesthetic injection to avoid pain. Then they will insert a catheter into the vein via tiny cuts while using an ultrasound scan as a guide. Next, a tiny laser will be inserted into the catheter and placed at the top of the vein being treated. As the catheter is being gradually removed, the laser device will release short bursts of light energy to heat and close the vein for good. Apart from some tightness in legs and small bruises, laser veins treatment is not so uncomfortable.
Radio frequency ablation (RFA)
Unlike EVLA, RFA uses radio waves energy to cure varicose veins. The procedure is done the same way as the laser one. Your veins specialist doctor will inject the area being treated with a local anesthetic drug to numb it. Then, they will make small incisions and insert a catheter while using an ultrasound scan as a guide. After this, a probe will be inserted inside the catheter up to the top of the vein.
As the catheter is getting withdrawn, the probe will release radio waves heat that will damage the entire length of the vein. This will make it collapse and close off for good. Most people experience paraesthesia (pin and needles) as a side effect. Fortunately, this or any other mild side effects disappear in a matter of days or weeks. RFA is best used to treat trunk varicose veins while EVLA treats spider veins successfully.
Ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy is so common and good at treating varicose veins. These days, doctors use foam as a sclerosant. It scars and closes of the veins for good. The doctor might use local anesthesia drug to make the procedure as painless as possible. Next, the affected vein is injected directly with a foam sclerosant that damages the vein permanently.
A number of veins can be treated in one session and if you have others, your veins specialist doctor might ask you to attend two or more sessions. Sclerotherapy has more side effects than EVLA and RFA even though it is minimally invasive.
As a result, if you notice that you are having headaches, lower back pain, skin color changes, dizziness, blood clots and blurred vision, the best action to take is to see your veins specialist doctor once again.
If the above-mentioned techniques do remove what causes varicose veins, doctors have other solutions. If you are dealing with true vein experts, you will be taken through all modern techniques like VenaSeal and other less invasive techniques before the invasive ones are recommended.
More invasive procedures might require one to be hospitalized. One of these is surgery, and it is basically avoided until doctors lack another solution. It is normally called ligation and stripping surgery and is done under general anesthesia. The patient’s consciousness is usually gone completely during ligation and stripping surgery.
An overnight stay at the veins clinic may be inevitable if you must undergo this type of surgery. However, you will barely spend another night in the hospital. As this is real surgery to remove stubborn varicose veins, you better make sure that the best veins specialist doctor is going to treat you. This type of surgery causes some side effects: bleeding, bruising and pain.
Severe side effects are rare though. If they occur, they might entail deep vein thrombosis and nerve damage. A period of up to three weeks is necessary for recovery and resumption of duties. Some doctors might offer transilluminated powered phlebectomy if they think it will be better than surgery.
Signs that you have really ignored your varicose veins
If you take too long to find out what causes varicose veins in your legs, you might see strange complications that will be difficult to deal with. These include:
- Leg swelling
- Venous leg ulcers
- Cellulitis, a skin infection
- Venous eczema
- Vein bleeding
- Deep vein thrombosis(blood clots)
So, take an action early enough to find out what causes varicose veins and avoid the above-mentioned complications. They are so difficult to treat and can make your legs so painful and unattractive.