Varicose veins are twisted, bulging dark blue or purple veins, usually seen on the legs. Most cases are unsightly, but severe cases can cause symptoms. Typically, the visible veins don’t cause any problems, and the symptoms are due to deep veins with varicosity. However, it is possible to have no visible affected veins yet have symptoms from deep varicosities that are allowing blood to pool in the legs.
Three common symptoms of affected veins and how to treat them are:
- Aching and Pain
These symptoms are variously described as aching, discomfort, dull pain, or a heavy feeling in the legs, and may be accompanied by swelling of the ankles and feet. They tend to get worse after periods of standing or sitting and go away after lying down or sitting with elevated feet. They are caused by blood pooling in the legs. Home treatments include:
- Wear compression stockings
- Avoid sitting or standing for prolonged periods
- Take a 20 to 60-minute walk daily
- Elevate your feet whenever possible
Engage Your “Second Heart”
Usually, the body returns blood from the feet back to the heart with the help of one-way valves in the veins and the pumping action of the calf muscles. Every time you take a step, your calf muscle contracts and pumps blood out of the leg-unless, you are wearing high heels. Elevating the heels stops the calf muscle from pumping. Thus, if at all possible, wear flats.
The calf muscle also doesn’t pump if you are sitting or standing motionless. If you have a desk job, try standing up, stretching, and walking around briefly every 15 minutes. If you have a standing job, try to move around, such as marching in place or walking back and forth instead of just standing.
Removal of the Veins
Doctors can also treat the symptoms by removing the troublesome veins. Traditional treatments were surgical, but there are new minimally invasive treatments available. A review of varicose veins clinical trials found that endovenous laser therapy and radiofrequency ablation were as effective as surgery.
- Muscle Cramps in the Calves at Night
Muscle cramps can occur due to mechanical irritation of the calf muscles. The irritation happens from the enlargement of the veins during the day due to pooled blood.
In addition to the suggestions above, many people find that elevating their legs and applying ice packs to the calves for at least 20 minutes before bedtime prevents muscle cramping. The elevation drains the blood out of the veins, and the ice helps the veins contract back to a more normal size.
Varicose veins can cause skin ulcers to develop in areas near the affected veins. These ulcers tend to heal very slowly if at all and are caused by pressure from the distended varicose veins compromising circulation in the skin. Thus, in a way, they are very similar to bedsores.
A doctor should be consulted about ulcers since they may need treatment with antibiotics and special dressings. For example, recent varicose veins clinical trials found that applying dressings soaked with platelet-rich plasma dramatically promoted healing of varicose ulcers.
Varicose veins can cause problems that can lead to you needing treatment. It is vital that you check with your doctor if you are suffering from any of these symptoms.