First, a caveat – for many people, their varicose veins don’t hurt. Some people will experience pain related to their varicose veins, while others will not. Research into pain associated with vein disease is thus often difficult to assess due to an absence of a close relationship between pain and the clinical severity of the venous disease.
What causes varicose veins to become painful?
To understand why varicose veins sometimes can hurt, it’s important to understand what causes them. They are the result of a disease called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), a condition in which the veins’ internal valves malfunction and stop blood from flowing as it should – “up” towards the heart and lungs. Instead, the blood “leaks” back into the veins, causing them to swell and leading to increasingly poor circulation. This impaired circulation can cause inflammation, and allow blood to leak into areas that cause pain receptor fibres to activate.
Pain associated with varicose veins is often perceived as a “dull aching,” sometimes accompanied by throbbing, itching, and general discomfort. Common side effects of such pain include tiredness, lack of energy and feelings of “heaviness” in the legs. For most patients who experience painful varicose veins, the symptoms are aggravated by inaction and resolve when they get up and walk. In general, large varicose veins produce more pain symptoms than small ones, but this is far from an exact predictor.
In women, these symptoms may become worse during their menstrual cycles or pregnancy. And many people who do experience pain and discomfort find that it is worst at night, and can lead to a loss of sleep. Also, just the presence of constant or daily pain can have a significant impact on a person’s overall quality of life.
What you can do about painful varicose veins
- Get more exercise. Yes, we know it sounds counter-intuitive, but regular exercise – even a daily brisk walk – can be helpful in alleviating the pain. Stretching also helps, because tight, constricted muscles impair circulation.
- Lifestyle changes. Practice good skin hygiene, keep your weight down, stop smoking if you still smoke, and stay hydrated (drink lots of water).
- Elevate your legs. Spend some time each day with your legs raised above the level of your heart. This can improve blood flow and reduce pain.
- Wear compression stockings. Your vein doctor can prescribe prescription stockings that exert a constant pressure on your legs or calves to improve circulation and slow the growth of new varicose veins. These stockings can help to reduce pain in many patients, but in general larger varicose veins may require treatment.
- Consider treatment. A trained doctor can help to help you either “live with” varicose veins, or treat them. Non-invasive treatment methods such as ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, endovenous laser treatment, and medical super glue are now an option for most patient’s.
So give the experts at The Vein Institute a call at 1300 535 017 and we’ll be happy to give you a full examination and suggest the best options for your particular needs.