Varicose veins are unfortunately common – in industrialised countries such as ours; it is estimated that 41% of women and 24% of men will develop varicose veins by the time they are in their 50s.
Many people have unanswered questions about varicose veins. In this article, we’ll address the questions most commonly asked of us here at The Vein Institute.
01. How Do Varicose Veins Form?
Varicose veins form when the tiny, one-way valves that control blood flow and keep it moving in the direction of the heart are damaged by a vein disease called chronic venous insufficiency and become “leaky.” When this happens, the valves no longer close properly after blood flows through them, and this allows the blood to flow “backwards” back into the veins and pool there. This, in turn, causes the veins to swell and take on the bluish-purple colour of deoxygenated blood.
02. Do Varicose Veins Hurt?
Varicose veins are a progressive disorder, so the answer to this question depends on what stage your varicose veins are in. If they are small and just barely visible, they are less likely to cause pain. As they become larger, however, varicose veins can cause skin changes that render the swollen veins themselves sensitive to touch or abrasion and can cause the skin that covers them to become brittle and easily damaged. Left untreated, these latter-stage varicose veins can become in rare cases ulcerated as the disease progresses over man-years.
03. Are Varicose Veins a Risk Factor for DVT?
DVT stands for deep vein thrombosis, and it is a much more severe condition than the one that causes varicose veins. Whilst varicose veins attack your superficial (close to the skin surface) veins, DVT affects the larger, deeper veins in your legs, and causes blood clots to form in them. These blood clots impair your circulation but the real danger occurs if the clots break loose from where they formed and travel to your lungs which can be fatal in a small percentage of cases. These side effects of DVT kill hundreds of thousands of people every year. Having varicose veins does increase your risk of developing DVT mildly, and provides yet another reason why you should seek medical attention if you have varicose veins.
04. When Should Varicose Veins Be Treated?
Untreated, varicose veins don’t magically go away or “get better on their own” if you ignore them. This does not mean that your varicose veins require immediate treatment. Factors likely to influence your decision in seeking treatment include long term pain from varicose veins, ulceration from varicose veins, swelling from varicose veins, and also their unsightly appearance.