Doctors can’t tell you for sure what your future health holds. They can, however, tell you if you have an elevated risk for certain conditions based on several factors. The same holds true for varicose veins — there are many variables that lead to this typically harmless condition, but there’s no way to know for certain who will get varicose veins and who won’t.
That said, there are ways to find out if you’re more than others likely to get varicose veins. Dr. Gary Jones and our team here at Louisiana Cardiovascular and Thoracic Institute in Alexandria, Louisiana, diagnose and treat varicose veins daily and specialize in all types of venous issues.
If you’re concerned about varicose veins you have now or may get in the future, where’s what you need to know about what they are, why they occur, and whether you’re at risk.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins and their smaller cousins, spider veins, are superficial veins that have become visible through the surface of your skin.
Every time your heart beats, it pumps oxygen-rich blood to all your body parts through your arteries. Your veins carry the oxygen-depleted blood back to your heart to start the process over again.
To prevent a backflow of blood, your veins have tiny one-way valves that keep the blood moving forward and upward. If and when these valves fail, blood pools in the veins and weaken the walls. Soon, they begin to expand and show through the surface of your skin.
Spider veins look like a delicate spider’s web, and varicose veins are larger, distended, and often twisted and gnarled-looking. Symptoms include:
- Blue, purple, or red visible veins
- Bulging veins
- Achy, heavy legs
- Throbbing or burning sensations
- Cramping and swelling
- Skin discoloration
Most often, these visible veins aren’t a medical problem, although they can be a cosmetic concern for many. However, depending on the underlying cause of your varicose veins, they may lead to more serious conditions, like blood clots, bleeding, and skin ulcers.
Who gets varicose veins?
Venous insufficiency is the main cause of varicose and spider veins, and it occurs when your leg veins struggle to keep blood flowing to your heart. Some factors that contribute to venous insufficiency and varicose veins are controllable; others aren’t.
One of the primary factors in the development of varicose veins is your genetic makeup. Studies show that if you carry certain genes, you’re more likely to get varicose veins in your legs than those who don’t have those genes. So, take a look at your parents’ legs for a clue as to whether you’re likely to get varicose veins sometime in your life.
When you carry a lot of excess fat and weight, it puts increased pressure on your organs, joints, and veins. This makes it even harder for your veins to transport blood against gravity, so the valves begin to fail and the blood pools in place.
The increased weight that comes with pregnancy has the same effect as being obese. The extra pressure compresses veins and causes temporary venous insufficiency.
Pregnant women have elevated levels of estrogen and progesterone in their system, which softens tissues, including veins. As your veins stretch, they weaken and may result in spider or varicose veins.
Men may also experience visible veins as their testosterone level drops with age. Low T has the same effect on men’s veins as high estrogen and progesterone have on women.
Lack of movement is the enemy of your circulation system. If you sit or stand all day, you dramatically increase your risk for varicose veins.
Too much sun
You know excess sun exposure is bad for your skin, but you may not realize it can also harm your veins. When the UV rays penetrate your skin, they can damage collagen and elastin structures, causing your veins to dilate and become spider veins.
Age and sex
Even if varicose veins don’t run in your family, if you’re a woman, you have one strike against you: more than half of all women have spider veins, and twice as many women as men have varicose veins.
And the older you get, regardless of your sex, the higher your chances of getting varicose veins, because general wear and tear weaken your vein walls.
The good news — we can get rid of your varicose veins
With Venefit™ endovenous laser treatment, Dr. Jones can treat your varicose veins and restore the look of your legs. He inserts a slender catheter into your problem veins and heats them with radiofrequency energy that destroys and seals them. Your body naturally redirects blood flow to healthier veins, and the dead vein tissue gets flushed away as waste.
To find out if you’re at risk for varicose veins, or to learn more about our varicose vein treatments, schedule an appointment online or by calling us today.