Varicose veins are enlarged veins that look like twisted cords. They often bulge above the skin’s surface and may appear flesh-colored, red, or blue. While any veins can become varicose, they usually form in the legs and feet.
Varicose veins take shape when the valves in the veins no longer function properly, causing blood to pool. Aging can contribute to their formation because veins lose elasticity, stretch, and weaken over time, making it harder for blood to flow back to the heart. Pregnancy can also lead to varicose veins by increasing the blood volume in your body. Family history of varicose veins, obesity, and spending lengthy amounts of time on your feet also increase your risk.
While varicose veins aren’t always problematic from a health standpoint, they can progress or derive from chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). This condition happens when vein walls or valves stop working effectively, interfering with blood flow and causing pooling of blood known as stasis.
CVI symptoms may include:
Your doctor can diagnose CVI through a physical exam and noninvasive duplex ultrasound imaging. Treatment may involve venous stripping, which is a highly invasive surgical therapy, or endovascular ablation, which is a minimally invasive in-office procedure. Endovascular ablation takes only 45 minutes and brings immediate recovery, so there’s no need for downtime.
Lifestyle shifts, such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy body weight, can go a long way toward preventing CVI. Leg elevation, painkillers, compression stockings, and laser and Sclerotherapy injections may also help manage symptoms.