Varicose veins are an often-painful medical condition, that will worsen over time. If you are suffering from varicose veins, know that you are not alone, as this venous disease is actually very common. In this guide to varicose veins, you will find answers to some frequently asked questions, such as is varicose veins painful, and what varicose veins cause. The different kinds of varicose veins treatments, and the varicose veins treatments costs will also be covered.
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are veins on the legs and feet that have become swollen or enlarged. Over 40 million people in the US alone suffer from varicose veins. Varicose veins are often a non-serious medical issue, and some sufferers may not experience any pain from varicose veins at all. In this situation it is not necessary to seek treatment, other than for cosmetic purposes. However, varicose veins will often cause aches and pains in affected areas and require medical intervention to get a handle on how the disease is affecting individual sufferers.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are caused when small valves in our veins become damaged or stop working entirely. This causes blood, which should flow straight through the veins, to pool at certain points, and even flow backwards through damaged valves.
There are certain factors that can raise your chances of developing varicose veins. If you are female, are pregnant or overweight, have suffered from blood clots in the leg in the past, or spend long periods of your day on your feet or sitting down, you may be more likely to develop the condition. Varicose veins are also more likely to develop with ageing and can simply come on as a result of getting older.
Varicose veins are known to be a hereditary condition. Just under half of patients with varicose veins have a family history with the issue. If both your parents have developed varicose veins throughout their lives, your chances of having varicose veins are at almost 90% certainty.
What are the Symptoms of Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins will often first present as small, spider veins. These occur when capillaries in the legs dilate, and can look like spider webs under the skin, most often in the lower legs. Spider veins will rarely cause pain, and treatment is often far simpler at this stage. Catching varicose veins in this early stage can prevent or slow the condition progressing further.
In a majority of sufferers, varicose veins are swollen, lengthened or twisted, purple and blue veins in the legs. However, in rare cases varicose veins may not present with any color at all, and may simply appear as long, connected lumps and bumps underneath the skin. They may only appear on one leg, and not the other, and can also have an effect on the cluster of veins in our feet.
Is Varicose Veins Painful?
Yes, in many cases varicose veins can cause sufferers’ long-lasting pain. For example, your legs may ache, or feel heavier than usual if you are suffering from varicose veins. General movement such as walking, or even standing still for long periods of time can result in significant pain in the legs and feet. This pain may present as a burning sensation or throbbing in the affected areas.
Those suffering with varicose veins are also likely to experience muscle cramping during the nighttime, following normal activity in the day. Finally, varicose veins can cause sufferers’ skin around the affected veins to become dry, thin, itchy, and irritable. These painful symptoms are likely to get worse when the weather is hot.
It’s always best to seek help from a medical professional if your varicose veins are causing you extreme discomfort or pain or are disturbing your sleep with cramping. If the skin around your varicose veins is red and swollen, sore, or aggravated, your doctor will recommend the best treatments for your case.
What Happens if Varicose Veins are Left Untreated?
Since varicose veins are caused by damaged valves, and blood flowing improperly through our veins, the condition will worsen over time. As varicose veins is a chronic condition, sufferers often worry about what varicose veins cause.
In patients who have had varicose veins for over 2 years, they can lead to complications. Varicose veins cause bleeding in some cases when an injury is made to affected areas on the leg or foot. This bleeding can be difficult to stop, and in this case, you should seek immediate medical attention.
As varicose veins are caused by the improper function of valves, they can sometimes lead to blood clots. Blood clots in the leg can be extremely dangerous; however, in the case of blood clots caused by varicose veins, they will often form in the surface veins. While not immediately dangerous, these blood clots can lead to deep vein thrombosis, and life-threatening conditions such as pulmonary embolism.
If varicose veins are left untreated, they can gradate to edema, a swelling of the leg that worsens throughout the day as more blood flows through the area. Eventually, long term sufferers of varicose veins may develop ulcers on the legs. These are extremely painful and itchy and will worsen your quality of life as they require constant care.
In very rare cases, varicose veins may be a symptom of another medical issue, such as a swelling or tumor in the pelvis. Both the chronic nature of varicose veins, the pain they cause, their unsightly appearance, and the potential for other issues to arise often push sufferers to seek treatment.
Can You Prevent Varicose Veins?
If you notice the early signs of varicose veins in your legs, there are some simple things you can do to help prevent their progression. Moving around consistently throughout your day is known to ease new symptoms of varicose veins. Regular exercise will help improve circulation throughout the body and can prevent new varicose veins from developing for some time. Finally, if you begin to feel discomfort in your legs as a result of early-stage varicose veins, raising the affected areas using a pillow can provide some relief.
How Can You Treat Varicose Veins?
Fortunately, when it comes to varicose veins treatment, there are multiple options open to you. In the early stages of varicose veins, treatments are usually non-invasive, and can be carried out from home. For example, using compression stockings can prevent the issue from progressing. Alongside this, not standing or sitting for periods longer than 30 minutes can help ease the pain of varicose veins.
If varicose veins continue to cause pain after initial treatments, or you would like them removed for cosmetic reasons, there are some invasive varicose veins treatments that can alleviate the condition. These include endovenous laser ablation, where heated lasers are used to seal affected veins, or sclerotherapy, when medical foam is used to block the veins. Finally, litigation and saphenous vein stripping is a treatment option, in which veins are entirely removed through surgery. If you simply want to remove the appearance of varicose veins, lasers can also be used to alleviate surface cosmetic issues.
What Do Varicose Veins Treatments Cost?
Varicose veins treatments cost will depend on multiple factors, including the expertise of your doctor, and the quality of the clinic you visit. As well as this, the progression of your varicose veins may raise prices if a large, or late-stage area of varicose veins will need to be treated. If your varicose veins are causing you pain, are swollen, or are progressing rapidly, the condition is covered by many insurance policies, and they may pay for part or all of the treatment.
In general, endovenous laser ablation will be cheaper than surgical methods to treat or remove varicose veins. These varicose vein treatments cost between $600 - $3000. Vein stripping surgery treatment costs, on the other hand, can start a lot higher, between $1500 - $3000. However, if you are suffering from long term varicose veins, and need a greater amount removed or treated, most treatment options will cost about the same. Success rates for these separate treatments remain even, and all treatment methods can prevent the progression of varicose veins if done well.