Although varicose veins are most commonly associated with legs and calves, the underlying cause of the condition – venous insufficiency – can affect your feet and ankles as well. It’s a common issue experienced by thousands of people, and it manifests as twisted, swollen veins in the lower extremities.
Varicose veins as well as spider veins around the feet and ankles, are referred to as Corona Phlebectasia by vein specialists. Also, statistics indicate that 3 out of 10 people will experience varicose in their adult lives. Most importantly, symptoms can differ in severity. Indeed, this ranges from strictly cosmetic to indicating a more serious medical problem.
What causes varicose veins in the foot?
Varicose veins generally occur when the tiny valves in your veins become damaged or weakened. Generally, this is due to age, genetics or an underlying health condition. Blood does not normally throughout the circulatory system, therefore resulting in it backing up or pooling in your veins. Furthermore, without treatment, veins can become swollen and discoloured. And this will then lead to a gnarled or distorted appearance.
Patients who suffer from protruding feet or ankle veins often have venous insufficiency around the small saphenous veins or the perforator veins in the lower leg. This happens due to the effects of gravity and pressure increasing on veins in the lower parts of the body.
If you have varicose veins then you know how debilitating this condition can be. Even simple daily activities such as walking or standing can cause pain and discomfort. In addition, we do not recommend staying inactive for long periods of time either as it can aggravate your symptoms.
Symptoms of varicose veins in ankles and feet
- Numbness in feet
- Painful ankles and feet
- Throbbing, itching and burning in feet and ankles
- Redness, swelling, tenderness around feet and ankles
- Ulceration or broken skin around feet and ankles
- Restless or heavy legs and frequent cramping
How foot and ankle swelling is linked to varicose veins
Varicose veins develop when the veins are no longer able to pump blood up the legs sufficiently, this usually happens because the veins are weak and unable to create adequate pressure, causing blood to reflux. When this damage occurs, it often leads to bulging veins and spider veins in the legs. However, if it occurs in veins deeper in the leg, it can be harder to notice.
A similar thing happens with oedema, as the blood flows down into the feet and ankles, but the smallest of the blood vessels, your capillaries, leak fluid out into the surrounding tissue. This occurs when the vein walls are too weak to keep the blood flowing as they are varicosed.
While varicose veins don’t directly cause swelling in the ankles and feet, it’s not unusual for underlying issues that aggravate veins to then cause oedema in the ankles. Swelling in the legs, feet and ankles can be caused by varicose veins in a condition known as phlebolymphoedema. If you find that the swelling in your legs is chronic and you have varicose veins, it’s worth talking to your doctor about it as it can be reversed.
Do ankle and foot varicose veins have to be treated?
Many patients don’t realise that those tiny bluish veins around the feet and ankles can be indicative of an underlying health condition. Therefore, it’s important to speak with an experienced phlebologist and receive a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Indeed, if you do not treat varicose veins in the feet and ankles, it can lead to other problematic issues. Below are examples of complications that can occur:
- Blood clots in legs and other parts of the body
- Venous eczema
- Discoloured or ulcerated skin
- Swelling and hardening of the skin on your feet, ankles and lower
Home treatment for varicose veins in feet and ankles
On the other hand, if your varicose veins are mild and don’t require treatment, you can also manage the condition yourself. For instance, try to apply the following home remedies:
- Regular exercise – walking, swimming, cycling – Regular exercise has a two-fold positive effect on swelling in your ankles and feet. Keeping the muscles active helps your body move everything around more and get fluid out of built-up areas, while a long-term benefit of regular exercise is weight loss, which reduces the strain on your veins and joints. Learn more: Exercise & varicose veins: everything you need to know.
- Compression stockings – Wearing medical-grade compression stockings (class 2 compression minimum) on a daily basis helps to boost the blood flow in your legs, helping the muscles and veins to pump blood and excess fluid out of the ankles and feet and back up to the heart and body to process it. This also works to minimise the development of varicose veins and is great for your legs in general.
- Healthy diet – eat more fiber-rich foods, including fruits and veggies. These contain flavonoids which have been shown to help to support vein health
- Supplements – take grape seed extract, Vitis vinifera, studies suggest it can reduce swelling in the lower legs and alleviate symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency
- Keep legs elevated – this prevents blood from pooling in the lower extremities
- Massage – improves blood circulation in the entire body
- Wear non-restrictive clothing
Medical treatment for painful varicose veins in feet and ankles
Above all, advanced cases of venous insufficiency may require medical intervention. Fortunately, we offer some excellent non-surgical approaches to treating varicose veins:
- Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA) – laser energy to close off the abnormal veins and minimise their appearance.
- Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) – radiofrequency energy directed through a thin tube (called a catheter) in order to close off the blood flow.
- Medical Superglue – physically shuts down and seals defective veins.
- Sclerotherapy – involves injecting a safe pharmaceutical solution directly into the affected vein to irritate the lining of the blood vessel, causing it to collapse.
Seek expert advice
The doctors at The Vein Institute specialise in varicose vein treatment. Also, we offer patients a comprehensive treatment program to treat varicose veins, and this with non-surgical laser treatment techniques. The benefits of laser treatment to patients are;
- Walk-in walk-out treatment
- 98% success rate
- Extremely effective
- Can be performed at a clinic (no hospitalisation)
- No general anaesthetic
- Medicare rebates apply
- No downtime or time away from work