More than half of people with varicose veins experience pain — here’s how you can find relief.
Varicose veins are not just a cosmetic problem. Many people with this venous disorder experience pain, swelling, and throbbing in the legs, among other symptoms. According to one study, 56.7% of more than 2,600 patients reported discomfort associated with varicose veins.
On the other hand, some people with varicose veins don’t experience any pain. Others may experience the symptoms of varicose veins without seeing any outward signs of the disorder. In this case, the affected vein may be buried deep inside the leg and therefore not visible to the naked eye.
Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms of varicose veins, as well as the many effective treatment options available.
What Do Varicose Veins Feel Like?
Pain and swelling aren’t the only symptoms of varicose veins. You may also notice a heavy, fatigued feeling in the leg. The area around the varicose vein might itch, and sometimes the condition causes leg cramps that interfere with sleep.
Those symptoms are the result of a disorder called venous insufficiency. Each vein contains valves that push blood back to the heart, and when these valves are no longer functioning — whether due to heredity, pregnancy, obesity, or other factors — blood pools in the vein. This forces the vein walls to extend, causing twisted or bulging lines beneath the skin.
In addition to the discomfort associated with varicose veins, the disorder may cause more serious side-effects. Spontaneous bleeding can occur even from a slight scrape or bump. Slow-healing venous ulcers may also surface around untreated varicose veins.
Perhaps the most serious byproduct of varicose veins is the potential to develop a blood clot. Red, swollen skin may indicate a blood clot close to the surface of the skin (superficial thrombophlebitis). Additionally, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) may occur if a blood clot develops in a vein deep within the body. Each condition requires immediate medical attention.
Treating Varicose Veins
If you’re experiencing only minor discomfort from varicose veins, at-home remedies may help relieve some of your symptoms. These include:
- Elevate the Legs. Elevating the legs for 15 minutes at a time helps return blood to the heart, thereby taking pressure off the damaged veins. You can either lie in bed and prop your feet up on a pillow, or lie on the floor and rest your feet on a chair.
- Avoid Sitting or Standing for Long Periods. If you regularly sit or stand for long periods of time, it’s important to take breaks to stretch your legs. Standing or sitting for many hours can stress damaged veins.
- Exercise. Low-impact aerobic workouts like walking, swimming, and biking strengthen the calf muscles, which in turn support circulation in the legs. Conversely, running on the hard ground and weightlifting are not recommended for varicose vein patients.
- Wear Compression Stockings. Available in drugstores, medical supply outlets, and by prescription, these strong elastic garments fit over the leg and compress the veins. This compression allows the valves to push blood back to the heart more efficiently, which reduces pain and swelling.
- Cool Down. Warm temperatures inflate the veins, causing pressure on already overstretched vein walls. If you have varicose veins, try to avoid the midday summer sun and hot saunas. On the other hand, a cool bath may narrow the veins and reduce swelling.
Is Surgery an Option?
Surgery is the only treatment that can completely eliminate varicose veins. For patients whose varicose veins cause severe pain that interferes with daily activities, it may be the best option. Fortunately, many of the methods to treat varicose veins are quick, minimally invasive, and virtually pain-free.
At Siragusa Vein & Laser, we offer procedures like sclerotherapy, which uses a non-toxic foam to collapse the damaged vein, and endovenous ablation. In the latter procedure, lasers or radiofrequency waves are directed at the affected vein, which is then closed off and absorbed by healthy veins.
If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort due to varicose veins, our experienced vein specialists can help you decide which treatment method is right for you. Contact us today to set up an appointment.