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Varicose Veins: Who is at Risk and Why

by Jane Meggitt

Those purple-blue, swollen veins on the lower legs or other parts of the body are known as varicose veins. Once you turn 50, you’ve got a 50 percent chance of eventually developing these knotty, corded-looking veins. Although the risk is high for every older adult, there are certain people more vulnerable to varicose veins and there are ways to lower that risk.

Risk Factors

Aging is a risk factor for varicose vein development, as veins start stretching and the valves within them weaken. The enlargement results from blood pooling in the veins.

Pregnant women often experience varicose veins, because blood volume is increased to the fetus and decreased to the legs and pelvis. Generally, pregnancy-related varicose veins improve within a year of giving birth.

Women are more likely to develop varicose veins than men, especially after menopause, and the condition also runs in families. Obesity increases the risk of varicose veins. Individuals with chronic heart valve issues are prone to varicose veins. Varicose veins do tend to worsen over time, although that doesn’t necessarily make them dangerous.

Preventing Varicose Veins

If you’re overweight, maintain a diet and exercise program to shed those unwanted pounds. Excess weight increases the odds of developing varicose veins. So does the habit of crossing your legs when seated – a relatively easy habit to break.

Office work is often sedentary. If that’s the case, get up from your desk every half hour or so and take a brief stroll around your workplace. Regular exercise can decrease your risk of varicose veins.

Wear compression stockings, available at most pharmacies or medical supply stores, if your job or lifestyle requires you to stay on your feet much of the day. Elevate your feet when sleeping or relaxing, and avoid wearing tight clothing.

The renowned Mayo Clinic recommends using certain herbal remedies if the veins are not returning sufficient blood to the heart. These include:

  • Horse chestnut
  • Sweet clover
  • Butcher’s broom

Always consult your doctor before using alternative medications to ensure these herbs don’t interfere with your other medications or health issues.

Treatment Options

The majority of varicose veins are simply unsightly, and don’t require treatment. However, if they cause pain, contact your doctor. In a worst-case scenario, varicose veins can ulcerate or develop potentially fatal blood clots.

If your varicose veins put your health at risk, your doctor may perform an operation known as vein stripping, in which the affected veins are surgically removed. More often, your doctor will use lasers to close small veins. For larger veins, your doctor may use laser energy or radiofrequency to close off the vein. A catheter is inserted into the vein and laser or radiofrequency heat seals it shut as the catheter is removed.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about varicose veins and how to treat them, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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