Most people consider varicose veins only a cosmetic problem, but they can be life-threatening if not treated in time. In this article, you will learn about varicose veins and the importance of getting prompt treatment to avoid future complications.

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged, bulging veins that are blue or purple. As the veins grow, they protrude from the skin and become noticeable. With aging, the veins lose elasticity, causing the walls to weaken and the veins to elongate.

When vein walls weaken, they lose their ability to contract normally. Because of this weakness, blood does not circulate properly and concentrates in the lower region of the body. These veins are most commonly found in the legs and feet. But, varicose veins can appear everywhere in the body.

What factors increase the appearance of varicose veins?

Women are more prone to varicose veins than men. Fluctuations in estrogen, which occur in women, affect the structure of the veins. During pregnancy, varicose veins may form but improve considerably after 2 to 3 weeks postpartum.

Other factors, such as obesity, lack of exercise, or prolonged sitting, promote the development of varicose veins. A person may be prone to varicose veins if there is a family history of blood circulatory disorders.

What are the symptoms?

Some people with varicose veins may have no symptoms. But most people with varicose veins suffer from the following:

  • Pain and irritation in the legs.
  • Changes in skin color.
  • Feeling of heaviness in the legs.
  • Burning and cramps.
  • Swelling in legs and feet.
  • Itching.
  • Fatigue.

Symptoms may worsen after prolonged sitting or standing.

What complications can I have?

Only a small percentage of people with varicose veins have significant complications. Some reported complications include dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), phlebitis (inflammation of the veins), or superficial venous thrombosis. Hemorrhages are also considered a major problem; this happens when the skin is injured and generates an ulcer that does not heal. It is essential to mention that people with varicose veins are more prone to developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism. These diseases are characterized by the formation of clots that impede blood flow. Having one of these diseases is life-threatening.

When should I be concerned about varicose veins?

Some people may have no symptoms, and the problem is considered cosmetic. Sometimes wearing compression stockings relieves symptoms and the formation of new varicose veins. Because compression stockings put pressure on the veins, blood flow increases, and blood does not concentrate in the legs. Also, keeping your feet elevated after prolonged sitting or standing improves blood flow and decreases symptoms.

Compression stockings are the least invasive treatment. But, if you have not noticed favorable changes after wearing compression stockings or keeping your feet elevated, it is time to visit a specialist. Significant changes in skin texture, like discoloration or dryness, as well as the development of ulcers, suggest that the disease is worsening. You must consult a specialist as soon as varicose veins appear. The doctor will evaluate your condition and will be able to identify the risks of future complications.

There are several treatments for varicose veins, ranging from the use of compression stockings to surgery. Only a specialized doctor can determine the most appropriate treatment for you.

Remember that a medical examination and early treatment can prevent symptoms from worsening. Venous diseases tend to progress, especially if you are not doing anything about them.