Roughly 25 million Americans suffer from varicose veins, and this figure is probably low. By the time we reach our 60s, it is estimated that 72 percent of women and 42 percent of men will experience vein problems.
Most recognize varicose veins as the bulging, rope-like veins seen in the legs, but vein problems may present themselves with other, more subtle signs and symptoms:
Symptoms usually are not present in the morning but increase as the day goes on. If left untreated, varicose veins can progress to skin changes. It’s important to recognize the often-subtle symptoms before skin changes and later progression to ulcer (ulcer).
Typically, you can know that you have varicose veins by looking at them. These veins protrude above the skin’s surface (though they are still covered by skin), and they look like a tangle of rope. The area around the veins might be swollen, as well, or the veins may appear raised on their own.
These veins appear on the legs, and they can appear as low as the ankles and as high as the groin. However, they are usually found on the back of the calf or knee. They are next found most often on the inside of the thigh.
Sometimes, these veins are painful, and sometimes they are just an aesthetic issue. For some people, varicose veins are painful enough to limit their mobility or impact their quality of life. Some symptoms can include restless legs, muscle cramps, itching skin, swelling of the ankles, a heavy feeling in the legs, and throbbing pain. Some people are not able to walk when these symptoms present, while others just can’t stand for long periods of time.
Fortunately, there are many options for treating varicose veins.
Milder cases can be treated non-surgically. For example, sclerotherapy can seal the veins with a chemical solution and lasers can fade spider veins. Lifestyle changes like getting more exercise, wearing compression socks, regularly elevating the legs, losing weight, and avoiding long periods of standing or sitting can help prevent the condition from worsening.
Surgical options are available for more serious cases of bulging veins and those that cause serious pain and swelling. For example, a catheter can be inserted into the vein to heat and seal it with radiofrequency (RF) technology. Since the RF technology uses a low temperature, it does not damage the surrounding tissue. Therefore, patients do not have as much pain or bruising than with some other treatments.