You may think you are all too familiar with the signs of varicose veins if you have bulging, twisting lines running up your lower leg signifying the presence of the vein disorder.

However, the visible veins are not the only symptom that accompanies this vein condition. For some, other symptoms may appear before those dreaded protruding veins make themselves known. Check out these facts from Veins Specialists of the Carolinas on how to recognize varicose veins and help you recognize whether you have a vein disorder that can and should be treated.

What are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are commonly referred to as those visible veins that frequently appear on the lower legs. Often flesh-colored, they can protrude above the surface of the skin like twisting ropes. Spider veins, which are often confused for varicose veins, are red, blue or purple lines that appear on the skin’s surface without any protrusion. These vessels may appear in a network that resembles a spider’s web – hence, their name.

Spider veins may be related to varicose veins if they are caused by the same underlying vein condition. However, there are many other causes of spider veins as well, including hormonal fluctuations, sun exposure and trauma to the skin. In addition, spider veins can appear on other areas of the body, including the upper legs, abdomen and face. Spider veins rarely cause any other symptoms, and their removal is often done for cosmetic reasons.

What are Varicose Veins Caused by?

Varicose veins are usually caused by an underlying vein condition known as chronic venous insufficiency or CVI. This condition occurs when tiny valves inside the veins of the lower legs become damaged or begin to wear out. Because these valves usually keep blood running through the vessel in a single direction, when they stop working properly, blood can start to pool inside the vessel. This reflux of blood leads to swelling and weakening of the vessel and eventual varicosity.

The lower leg veins are the most likely to become varicose because these veins tend to work the hardest in the body. Moving blood against gravity and the body’s own weight back to the heart can put additional strain on these vessels. This stress makes it more likely for these veins to wear out and for varicosity to occur. In some cases, CVI can develop without the visible appearance of bulging vein. However, other symptoms may indicate there is a problem brewing in the underlying vessels that you cannot yet see.

Complications of Varicose Veins

Whether you can actually see the varicose veins develop or experience other symptoms, this condition can lead to further complications if it is left unchecked. Both the swollen vessels and physical discomfort you might experience indicate blood is not flowing efficiently through this particular area of the leg. That can lead to changes in both the vessels and the skin over time.

Vessels that are damaged can continue to weaken, causing pain and other symptoms. Some patients may have an increased risk of blood clot formation in an inner vessel of the lower leg as a result. Known as DVT, this condition can become life-threatening if the clot or a portion of the clot breaks free and travels to the lung. The clot can then trigger what is known as a pulmonary embolism and requires emergency medical treatment.

Another complication that can arise when blood flow is affected affects the skin. The increased pressure inside the vessels can lead to thickening and discoloration of the skin around the affected vein. If this issue is not treated in a timely fashion, the changes can become permanent. The area may also be prone to the formation of large skin sores known as venous ulcers, which can be very difficult treat completely.

How To Recognize Varicose Veins – Telltale Symptoms 

The good news is there are signs of varicose veins that can tune you into the problem early on, so you can seek treatment when the condition is the easiest to address. Whether you can see the bulging veins or not, you may experience any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Heaviness or fatigue in the legs at the end of the day
  • Aching or cramping in the legs after sitting or standing for long periods
  • Swelling of the lower leg, ankle and foot
  • Leg cramps or restless leg syndrome at night (restless leg syndrome is characterized by an uncomfortable urge to move the legs, keeping you from resting in the evening)
  • Skin itching or a burning sensation around the affected vessel

In many cases, these symptoms worsen throughout the day and may be relieved by elevating the legs above the heart for a period of time. This exercise works because it gives those hard-working veins a break from trying to push blood back up the body to the heart on their own. You may also notice that periods of light walking relieve the symptoms. Some patients also turn to compression stockings, specialized socks that offer gradient pressure to help blood move more freely up the leg. While these stockings will not reverse vein conditions, they can relieve some of the uncomfortable symptoms.

Treating Varicose Veins: Many Options

To completely eradicate varicose veins and their uncomfortable symptoms, many treatment options are available today. Unlike invasive surgical procedures of the past, modern treatments are minimally-invasive and involve little or no discomfort or downtime. Patients usually spend about an hour in our office undergoing their procedure and often return to their daily activities as soon as treatment is completed.

At Vein Specialists of the Carolinas, we offer a variety of treatments that allow us to tailor your varicose vein solution to your specific needs. Some of our treatments involve state-of-the-art technology using laser or radiofrequency energy. Others use injectable procedures that have been around for many years and remain the gold standard in spider and varicose vein treatment today.

Whether you have visible varicose veins or symptoms of this condition, we can help. Contact Vein Specialists of the Carolinas at 704-861-2072 or 704-544-5245 to schedule your diagnostic examination and learn about your treatment options.

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