What are varicose veins and spider veins?
These are enlarged surface veins with a bulging, ropey, cordlike appearance. They’re filled with deoxygenated blood, so they have either a bluish or purplish color or simply blend in with the surrounding skin. While they can technically appear anywhere on the body, they’re much more common on the legs, especially the thighs around the knees and the backs of the calves. While pregnant, many women develop them around the vaginal area or buttocks.
What are some causes of spider / varicose veins?
All veins have one direction valves in them which ensure that blood flows in one direction, back to the heart. At this point, blood is pumped by the heart into the lungs, where it is oxygenated and spread throughout the body. When a valve is weakened or damaged, usually by becoming stretched out, blood begins to flow in the opposite direction, especially in the legs which are the lowest point in the body and under large amounts of pressure daily. With damaged valves, blood begins to trickle back down into the legs, further increasing pressure and causing veins to bulge and ultimately become varicose. This circumstance is known as chronic venous insufficiency, and is the root cause of nearly all vein problems. Spider veins pittsburgh can be thought of as smaller varicose veins, and form under much the same circumstances. In the case of spider veins, hormonal changes and skin stressors such as too much sunlight can make the problem worse.
How common are spider / varicose veins?
Over fifty percent of all women and about forty percent of all men will experience either spider veins, varicose veins, or both. They’re more common in people fifty years and older, and much more common in pregnant women.
What are common risk factors for spider / varicose veins?
There are multiple factors which predispose patients to varicose or spider veins problems:
- Growing older. Venous valves tend to naturally weaken and lose function with age.
- A family history. Some patients are simply born with weaker venous valves, which greatly increases a person’s risk. This is why vein problems run in families. Over half of those with vein problems have family members with vein problems.
- Changes in hormones. Hormones change dramatically during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Birth control medications containing progesterone or estrogen also alter a person’s hormonal balance, which increases the risk of vein disease.
- Pregnancy. This is a huge causative factor. The body’s blood volume increases dramatically, and the added weight of the fetus puts even more pressure on veins in the legs, causing them to stretch out and enlarge. The condition can improve within three months of delivery, but some will likely remain, and the problem tends to worsen with each additional pregnancy.
- Obesity. Those who are either obese or overweight are much more prone to vein problems. Much like pregnancy, this added weight puts more pressure on leg veins, stretching them out.
- A sedentary lifestyle. Failure to move about during the day results in the muscles of the calves not acting as a pump to assist blood back to the heart. This problem can be compounded for those who sit with their legs crossed or bent in any way.
- Too much sun. In the case of spider veins, sun damage greatly increases the chances of developing vein problems on the face, especially around the nose and on the cheeks.
- Heredity also complicates the situation. If immediate members of your family have vein problems, you’re much more prone to experience them yourself. Pregnancy aside, many more women get them than men, and a patient’s risk increases with age. Carrying around extra weight, i.e. obesity, is another huge predictor of whether or not a person will develop vein disease, and how severe it’s likely to be.
What’s the good news? After pregnancy the situation does tend to improve somewhat, more so in women without previous problems. Also, if they fail to improve as much as you’d like, several very effective and minimally invasive treatments are available after your baby is delivered.
to see changes in color or pigmentation around the damaged vein. These can be permanent and irreversible.
What are some causes of blocked veins? How does this happen?
The causes are various. Blood clots can clog veins, which hinder the return of blood to the heart. Scar tissue can block a vein, as well. Symptoms can be severe and immediate, including acute pain, redness and inflammation, and dramatic swelling. This type of generalized irritation is known as thrombophlebitis. This can be uncomfortable, yet is rarely dangerous.
How about compression and support hose for the treatment of varicose veins?
This is always a good bet, and are considered a first line treatment option. They provide constant, progressive pressure on the legs, meaning more compression at the ankles and less as the stockings go up the length of the leg. This greatly assists blood as it ascends up the major leg veins on its way back to the heart. Most doctors recommend daily wear. While this won’t fix the problem, it can provide symptomatic relief, as well as halting the progression of existing vein disease.
What’s more, compression wear is appropriate for almost everyone. The only exception are patients with severe vascular disease, usually advanced disease of the peripheral arteries of the legs.
Why are this type of vein problems more common on the legs?
The legs are the lowest part of a body, and we stand for long periods of time throughout the day. The combined pressure of a person’s weight and the force of gravity stretch out the leg veins and cause the valves to become weak. Blood begins to flow back down these leg veins, stretching them further and ultimately resulting in varicose veins.
What are the signs of varicose veins?
They appear on the skin’s surface. They are unsightly and have the following symptoms:
- An achy sensation. This usually worsens with prolonged standing
- Throbbing pain with associated cramping
- Feelings of heaviness
- Swelling of the legs
- A reddish rash or other skin changes
- Darkening or scaling of the skin
- Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Are these vein conditions dangerous?
Rarely do these vein conditions pose a serious health risk. They are often uncomfortable or painful, however. Spider veins occasionally can itch, but often present with no symptoms at all. The caveat here is that spider veins are often associated with the underlying vein problems which cause varicose veins. As such, you can find the same symptoms found with varicosities: swelling, aching, pain, fatigue, cramping, Restless Leg Syndrome, and others.
Signs and symptoms of varicose veins Pittsburgh of the legs:
Varicose veins tend to both develop and gradually worsen over a period of many years. They appear as enlarged, ropey veins which visibly protrude from the skin and often follow a twisting course. Much as with spider veins, varicose veins are most often blue or purplish in color, and can be found anywhere but most often occur on the legs, ankles, and feet. Unlike spider veins, these larger veins often cause symptoms beyond concerns about appearance.
Patients with this type vein disease experience a wide range of potential symptoms, and no two patients are exactly alike. More common symptoms include feelings of heaviness in the legs, fatigue which increases throughout the day, swelling (especially in the calves and ankles), and mild to moderate achiness and pain. Somewhat less common symptoms include cramping or RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome), muscle spasms, and itching or other altered sensation. Skin changes can also occur, ranging from the appearance of shiny, scaly, or discolored skin to ulcers and non-healing wounds. Taken together, these symptoms can decrease a patient’s ability to exercise or even walk, greatly affecting quality of life.
Today, all of the above mentioned symptoms, cosmetic and otherwise, are completely treatable. What’s more, these treatments are often simple in-office procedures, many of which are covered by insurance. After treatment, patients commonly express surprise at the level of pain and discomfort they gradually became accustomed to, and most wish they had taken action years earlier.
Causes of Varicose Veins in Pittsburgh pa
What ultimately causes these veins to develop is known as reflux. This is a process that develops over time, just like the varicose veins themselves. All veins carry blood in one direction–towards the heart. They have uni-directional valves that keep the blood flowing in this way. As we age, our veins stretch out, lose elasticity, and these valves stop working properly. Blood begins to trickle back down the leg and collect there, leading to a large increase in pressure. This immediately causing a sense of pressure, swelling and achiness.
Given enough time, this increased pressure causes the walls of some surface veins to bulge out to such an extent that they become visible on the surface. They’re bluish in color because they’re filled with deoxygenated blood. This is how large, unsightly varicose veins form.
This problem, including not only visible veins but also symptoms like pain, heaviness, fatigue, and less commonly itching, cramping, and restless leg syndrome, will always get worse with age. Only proper treatment can arrest this process and eliminate symptoms.
Risk factors include heredity, obesity, and (especially). It’s easy to see why obesity and pregnancy would contribute, as both involve much more pressure on the legs while standing, and there’s an increase in the body’s blood volume with pregnancy as well. Additionally, a woman’s blood vessels become more flexible during pregnancy, further decreasing the valve’s ability to work properly.
Additional Risk Factors for Varicose Veins pittsburgh
Note that this condition is many times more likely to develop in women than men. Over fifty-five percent of women in America will develop this vein condition and associated symptoms to some extent. The reasons go beyond pregnancy, including hormonal changes during menstruation and menopause.. Perhaps the main cause is that a woman’s blood vessels are more flexible than males to begin with.
Perhaps about 20% of men will experience similar issues. When taken together with women, this represents a huge portion of the population. Fortunately this condition is no longer a life sentence: several highly effective procedures are now available for unsightly veins and painful, swollen legs that have helped millions.
If your vein problems, specifically varicose veins, are causing symptoms like pain, swelling, fatigue, feelings of heaviness, cramping, or Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), there’s a good chance that your insurance provider will cover the cost of treatment. A variety of treatments are typically covered, yet these treatments are designed to manage varicose veins–not spider veins. If you want pristine pre-pregnancy legs you’ll need treatments which are considered cosmetic (like laser vein treatments), and insurance most likely won’t foot the bill.
Can varicose veins ever cause serious health problems?
It isn’t likely, but it is possible. In most cases these large surface veins are simply unsightly or at worst uncomfortable, but for some women with pre-existing circulation problems more bothersome symptoms can occur. At the severe end of the spectrum, stasis ulcers or non-healing sores can form around the ankles. At this point advanced care is essential, such as provided in a wound care center
A very small percentage of patients with varicose veins will form abnormal blood clots. When these clots form in the deeper veins of the leg, known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), potentially life threatening consequences can ensue. Often DVTs cause no problems at all, yet some break away from the vein walls and travel throughout the body. If these clot particles become lodged in the lungs the results can be fatal
Occasionally the area surrounding a clot becomes infected (in which case you may have fever or chills), and you’ll need to be treated promptly with antibiotics. Also call your practitioner right away if either of your legs becomes significantly swollen or has sores, or the skin near the veins changes color. These symptoms indicate a more serious circulation problem.
Pregnancy makes patients more likely to form DVTs, regardless if varicose veins are present or not. It may not seem like much, but pregnancy ups you chances of DVT formation to about 1 in 1,000, which is many, many times higher than that of the general population. Women with clotting disorders and those with sedentary lifestyles are at even further risk.
If you do get a DVT, it’s possible you might notice no symptoms. Or perhaps you’ll experience sudden onset of pain and swelling in your leg, especially the calf. This pain is often made worse by standing or flexing the foot, and some patients develop a low-grade fever. If any of these symptoms appear suddenly, it’s a medical emergency and intervention is needed. See your doctor immediately.
At this point you’ll most likely be spending some time in a hospital, where you’ll be treated with powerful blood thinners which will dissolve the clot. If you don’t seek treatment it’s possible that the problem will resolve on its own but this isn’t likely, and you can’t take the chance. If this clot breaks loose and travels to the lungs this is known as a pulmonary (lung) embolism. Signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism (PE) are labored breathing, shortness of breath, and even a hacking cough which produces blood. Many patients also experience a greatly increased heartbeat and report a panicked feeling. In short, any DVT must be treated immediately to avoid a pulmonary embolism.
Varicose veins and spider veins are very common during pregnancy
What causes spider / varicose veins?
Why are they more common in pregnant women?
How can they be prevented?
Is this a serious condition? Are more problems likely to develop?
What treatments are available after the delivery?