Many people just brush off leg pain and varicose veins simply because they find it part of everyday life.

Varicose veins are those found under the skin of the legs and are now easily treatable. This condition, however, may indicate a more serious health problem, especially if it's left untreated.

Varicose veins affect more than 40 million people in the United States, and almost 50 percent of patients have family members who also suffered from varicose veins. This condition is often more prevalent in women (55 percent) than in men (45 percent).

How Do Varicose Veins Form?

Venous insufficiency is a condition where there is abnormality in the circulation of blood in veins. When there is decreased return of blood from the veins in the legs up to the heart, blood will pool in the veins.

Inside veins, there are valves that prevent blood from flowing back downwards because of gravity. When these valves are damaged or when they become too weak to function, this results in the pooling of blood in the legs, and varicose veins develop.

In varicose veins, the valve has lost its effectiveness, leading to the dilation of the vessel. It will become elongated, bulged, thickened and rope-like.

What Do Varicose Veins Indicate?

Varicose veins are often related to a more serious condition called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). This condition occurs when the venous valves in the leg veins are not working properly. This leads to blood pooling in the legs, or stasis.

Aside from causing leg pain, this condition may lead to leg restlessness, skin damage and skin ulcers.

Who Is At Risk And What Are Its Signs And Symptoms?

Some people are specifically predisposed to acquiring varicose veins. Risk factors include family history, age, pregnancy and being female.

Common signs and symptoms include leg fatigue, leg heaviness and leg pain, all of which worsen throughout the day. In more severe cases, like that of venous disease, signs and symptoms include cramps or pain in the calf, heavy feeling or swelling in the leg, skin discoloration, open wounds, inflammation of subcutaneous fat and skin problems.

How Are Varicose Veins Treated?

One of the most effective treatment options for varicose veins is vein ablation treatment. It's a minimally invasive procedure through the use of an imaging device. Under local anesthesia, a catheter will be inserted into the vein. It heats the vein and seals it closed.

There are many other treatment options for varicose veins, including sclerotherapy, endovascular therapy and surgical treatment.

For those who want to reduce the symptoms brought about by varicose veins, wearing compression stockings is recommended by most doctors. They are designed to compress the legs to improve circulation. This encourages blood flow upwards toward the heart.

Photo: Richard Schatzberger | Flickr 

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