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Diagnosis / Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are the swollen, ropy veins on your legs that are usually dark blue or purple in color. These gnarled veins are a result of what is known as “venous reflux,” and are a signifier of venous disease or venous insufficiency. In order to understand what venous disease is, and how to recognize potentially serious signs of venous insufficiency, it’s important to understand what veins do.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

The heart pumps oxygenated blood throughout our bodies via arteries, helping our various organs and systems to function properly, while veins are responsible for the return of deoxygenated blood back to the heart for recirculation. If you consider the distance from your feet to your heart, and the fact that it’s an uphill climb – your veins have to work hard to push large volumes of pressurized blood upwards, against gravity.

Each vein is equipped with valves that keep the blood flowing one way – up. When those valves weaken and start to fail, this allows blood to flow backward, causing venous reflux. Venous reflux allows pooling of the blood in your veins, instead of keeping up a constant flow towards the heart. The pooling blood puts more pressure on the vein walls, causing them to enlarge until you’ve got an unsightly varicose vein.

Varicose veins are not simply a cosmetic issue. They are actually a sign of problems deeper within your venous system, problems that, if left untreated, can lead to serious health issues. They are a fairly common problem, affecting over 40 million Americans, and are one of several indicators of venous insufficiency, along with spider veins, poor circulation, and swelling or pain in your legs.

Risk Factors for Varicose Veins

  • Genetics – if one (or both) of your parents have varicose veins, there is a high likelihood that you will also develop them
  • Age – Nearly 50 percent of adults over 50 in the U.S. suffer from varicose veins
  • Gender – Approximately 55 percent of women have varicose veins, compared to 45 percent of men
  • Job – A job where you are stationary for long periods of time, whether it is sitting or standing, can make pooling and vein pressure worse
  • Obesity and pregnancy – Additional weight causes additional pressure on the veins in your legs, making it more difficult for the blood to be pushed to the heart and raising the risk of varicose veins
  • Lifestyle – Smoking constricts your veins, decreasing your circulation and weakening your veins

For some, the only indication that they have varicose veins is the appearance of the veins themselves. However, the most common symptoms of varicose veins include:

  • Burning, aching, or heaviness in your legs, especially after you’ve been sitting or standing for a prolonged period of time
  • Skin issues – itching, dryness, or scaling
  • Swelling in your feet or ankles due to fluid buildup
  • Darkening of the skin in your lower legs and ankles
  • Ulcers or open wounds on the legs that are slow to heal

Varicose veins can often be prevented, however, once they do appear, they won’t resolve without treatment. Without treatment, as well as changes to your lifestyle, they will only continue to worsen, and can lead to serious health problems later on.

IVC’s Treatments for Varicose Veins

At IVC, we offer several outpatient treatments for varicose veins. Sclerotherapy, which is the injection of a special chemical (sclerosant) into the vein; Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT), which is a minimally invasive laser treatment and; Ambulatory Phlebectomy, a procedure that removes superficial varicose veins through small incisions.

If you have varicose veins, or symptoms of varicose veins, it may be a sign of a serious venous insufficiency. Call IVC today at 503-612-0498 to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also read our brochure on Varicose Veins.

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