Varicose veins are notorious for having a disturbing lumpy and bumpy appearance. These veins may be mildly to severely twisted or distorted and typically appear bluish-purple in color. Varicose veins most often appear on the feet, calves, and thighs.
Want to see what varicose veins look like before and after treatment at Edward G. Mackay and Associates, LLC? Visit the photo gallery on our Varicose Vein Treatments page.
Why Varicose Veins Form
As is the case with spider veins, when the veins in your leg no longer function properly, blood that normally travels from the legs back to your heart can instead pool in the veins of your legs. Often, the valves in your veins that prevent blood from flowing backward fail to close properly, which allows the blood to accumulate there. This results in the engorged and gnarled look of varicose veins. Your legs are particularly at risk for varicose veins, because blood must flow upward, against the force of gravity, to get back to the heart.
How Varicose Veins Differ From Spider Veins
Varicose veins are different from spider veins in the following significant ways:
|Varicose Veins||Spider Veins|
|Location:||Occur in large, deep veins of the legs||Occur in small, close-to-the-surface veins|
|Appearance:||Large, engorged, twisted||Small, branch-like discolorations|
|Signs & Symptoms:||Pain, swelling, cramping, heaviness||N/A|
|Complications:||Sores, infections, blood clots||N/A|
|Type of issue||A medical condition||A cosmetic issue|
Varicose veins often come with a variety of signs and symptoms in the legs, including:Signs & Symptoms of Varicose Veins
- Noticeably bulging and misshapen veins
- Throbbing pain
- Swelling, especially at the end of the day
- Muscle cramps
- Thickening or hardening of the skin
- Color changes in the skin
- Heavy sensation in the legs
- Tired legs
- Dry, flaking skin
- Itchy legs
Complications of Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are considered a medical condition that can lead to serious health complications, including:
Pressure in the veins of your legs can cause the fluid portion of your blood, known as the serum, to move out of the vein and into the surrounding tissue. If the pressure continues to increase, the fluid may be pushed through the skin of your legs. It is typically clear or yellowish in color.
Circulation typically carries oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood throughout your body, which is necessary for proper healing. When circulation is impaired – such as when excess fluid surrounding varicose veins prevents nutrients in the blood from reaching your skin – injuries to the skin of your legs may be difficult to heal.
Open, nonhealing sores on the legs increase the likelihood that bacteria naturally present on your skin will cause infections, such as cellulitis.
As the deep veins in your legs become more engorged with blood, a sudden or sharp bump or fall can easily cause these veins to bleed profusely. If the bleeding doesn’t stop with compression, this is considered a medical emergency, and you should call 911 or visit the closest emergency room.
Untreated varicose veins can cause a blood clot to form in the smaller veins just under the skin. This type of blood clot is called a superficial thrombophlebitis. This condition is not dangerous – as long as the blood clot remains in the veins close to the surface of the skin. A superficial thrombophlebitis is felt as a hard cord just under the skin that can be tender to the touch. Ask your doctor if conservative treatment methods like compression stockings or certain medications may benefit you, or whether other procedures, such as vein stripping, may be necessary.
This is the most dangerous complication of varicose veins. Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that develops within the deep veins of the leg. This occurs when blood accumulates in the leg and does not circulate. DVTs are considered life-threatening because this type of blood clot can break away from the vein and travel to the lungs, blocking blood flow to the lungs and causing a pulmonary embolism.
FAQs: Varicose Veins
Absolutely. This is because varicose veins can actually cause spider veins – although the opposite is not true (spider veins do not cause varicose veins).
In addition, because the risk factors for both conditions are similar, you may have a genetic predisposition or otherwise be at a greater risk of developing both varicose veins and spider veins, which are two distinct conditions.
The risk factors for varicose veins are similar to those for spider veins.
You have an increased risk of developing varicose veins at some point in your life if any of the following apply to you:
- Middle-aged or older: The older you are, the more likely the valves in your veins will begin to fail, making you more susceptible to varicose veins.
- Family history of varicose veins: There is believed to be a genetic component for weak veins, malfunctioning valves, or both. About half the people with varicose veins have a family member who also has varicose veins.
- Being female: Women have a higher risk of developing varicose veins due to hormonal changes that occur with menstruation, pregnancy, the use of hormonal contraceptives, and menopause.
- Obesity:Increased body weight places pressure on the veins in the legs, which can cause them to weaken and the valves to malfunction.
- Lack of activity: Remaining in static positions – such as sitting or standing – for long periods of time prevents your muscles from contracting and pushing blood out of the veins in the legs and toward the heart.
There are several different treatment options available to treat varicose veins, including:
For more information, see our Varicose Vein Treatments page. If you’re suffering from varicose veins, ask board-certified vascular surgeon Dr. Edward G. Mackay which treatment options may be right for you.
Your treatment results will vary based on the area treated, the severity of your varicose veins, and the type of treatment performed.
For example, with sclerotherapy or laser treatment, it may take several weeks for you to see the results – and multiple treatments may be necessary to achieve the desired results. With vein stripping, however, the results are immediate, because the problematic vein is completely removed from the body.
The best way to prevent varicose veins is to try to reduce your risk factors, if possible. It also helps to add specific things into your daily routine that may help keep your condition from worsening. Such preventive measures may include:
- Weight loss: If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can relieve the pressure in the veins of your legs.
- Changing position: If you find yourself having to sit or stand for extended periods of time, try to make it a habit of taking one or two breaks every hour to walk or pump your ankles in order to contract your muscles to keep blood moving from the legs toward your heart.
- Exercise: Performing low-impact exercise, such as walking, swimming, or biking, at least 30 minutes every day, can help prevent varicose veins by regularly activating your muscles to keep your blood circulating.
- Compression stockings: Wearing compression stockings puts pressure on the muscles and legs to facilitate circulation. Compression garments are available by prescription as well as over-the-counter.
Varicose Veins? Don’t Suffer a Moment Longer
Varicose veins are not only ugly and painful, it’s also a medical condition that can lead to serious health complications. If you have varicose veins, make sure you get thoroughly evaluated by a well-respected and experienced vascular surgeon you trust.
Board-certified vascular surgeon Dr. Edward G. Mackay at Edward G. Mackay and Associates, LLC has been diagnosing and treating varicose veins for more than 20 years. He can identify the severity of your condition and walk you through your various treatment options, including conservative therapies.
Varicose Veins Treatment in Tampa Bay, FL
Getting the varicose vein care you need is easy. Just call Edward G. Mackay and Associates, LLC at (727) 781-5652 to schedule a consultation – or request an appointment now. We look forward to seeing you at one of our three convenient locations in Tampa Bay: in Palm Harbor, St. Petersburg, or Largo, Florida.