Dr. Wait said common risk factors for varicose veins include:
- Family history: While it's not a certainty, a family history of varicose veins can increase your chances of getting them.
- Older age: The majority of people who develop varicose veins are between 40 and 80.
- Gender: Women are more likely than men to develop varicose veins.
- Pregnancy or obesity: Added body weight can put pressure on the legs.
- Crossing your legs: It doesn't cause varicose veins but can make the symptoms worse, Dr. Wait said.
- Leg trauma: Injury can lead to damage in the valves of the veins or the veins themselves.
Varicose vein symptoms include:
- Veins that noticeably protrude or bulge under the skin, looking and feeling ropey.
- Achy, heavy-feeling and itchy legs. These symptoms may intensify after a day of standing.
- Severe pain when standing or leg cramps at night.
Spider veins refer to the enlargement of the smallest, most superficial veins in your skin, Dr. Wait explained. These usually only present a cosmetic challenge, rarely a medical issue.
When to seek treatment
You should contact your doctor when:
- You notice inflammation, discoloration or a break in the skin or swelling in the calf or leg. This could indicate the presence of a blood clot.
- Pain in the leg seems to worsen. This could be serious.
- A bump or minor irritation causes the vein to bleed, and the bleeding doesn't stop after elevating the leg and applying pressure. You may need a stitch from a doctor to completely close the wound.
- You feel chest pain or have trouble breathing. This could indicate the presence of a blood clot in the blood vessels of the heart or lungs. Go to an HonorHealth emergency department immediately.
- The veins are painful.
Treatments for varicose veins
Support hose help keep your veins tucked close to your body, Dr. Wait said, and can prevent the veins from getting progressively dilated over time. "They won't undo your genetics or your hormones, but they will certainly help with symptoms and may reduce progression of varicosities (swelling and dilation of veins)."
Other treatments include:
- Compression stockings. These reduce strain on the veins by exerting a bit of extra pressure near the ankles and feet and helping blood flow back toward the heart.
- Elevating your feet whenever possible.
- Surgical procedures to address problem veins if they are painful or causing wounds. The most common surgical procedure is called catheter ablation, which involves radiofrequency or laser energy to cauterize (heat) and close varicose veins in the legs.
- Superficial procedures, such as injections or laser therapy, to close veins for cosmetic purposes.
"The objective is to reduce the work of the veins," Dr. Wait said, "so they aren't as likely to swell."