Varicose veins are distended and twisted veins. They generally look like bulging blue cords just under the skin. They are most common in the legs and feet. Women are more likely to develop varicose veins than men are, and a tendency to developing them runs in some families.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

Arteries carry freshly oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body. They have thick layers of elastic tissue and muscle to help them in this task. Veins, which carry blood back to the heart, rely on surrounding muscles and a series of one-way valves that open to let blood through and then close to keep it from flowing backwards.

When veins become varicose, the valves stop working properly. They remain open and let the blood collect in the vein. That increases pressure within the vein and causes it to become swollen and twisted.

Superficial veins, which are near the skin, have less muscle support than do deep veins and are therefore more likely to become varicose. Since leg and foot veins have to work against gravity as they force blood back to the heart, they are the most likely to become varicose.

Any condition that puts extreme and prolonged pressure on the abdomen or legs can cause varicose veins. Common triggers of varicose veins include pregnancy, obesity, and occupations that require standing for long periods. Age is another factor, for veins weaken as people become older.

Are Varicose Veins Dangerous?

Most of the time, varicose veins are an unsightly nuisance. They can, however, lead to more serious problems. When the blood collects in the vein, it increases the chance of blood clots. A blood clot in a superficial vein can cause a condition called phlebitis that is painful, but not life-threatening.

Problems begin if the clot moves to a deeper vein. That can lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can be a serious condition. If the clot gets into a lung, it can cause a pulmonary embolism, which can kill. People with phlebitis have a 20 to 40 percent chance of also having DVT.

Varicose veins can also be the first symptom of venous disease, a progressive and serious condition. As the condition progresses, the patient’s legs swell and the skin becomes darker. Eventually, the patient develops painful ulcers on the inner leg above the ankle.

In cases where the varicose veins go untreated for years, the patient can develop lipodermatosclerosis. In this condition, the fat and skin have been inflamed for years, and they become firm and even feel woody.

Untreated varicose veins can also start to bleed spontaneously. The skin over the vein becomes thin, and the vein is eventually exposed to the outside world, where it is easily injured. The resultant blood loss can be significant.

Untreated varicose veins can also become inflamed in a condition called superficial thrombophlebitis (ST). The inflammation is caused by decreased blood flow, damage to the vein and blood clotting. ST causes reddened skin and a tender, warm vein. There may also be swelling and pain in the leg.

Learn More Today

At The Vein Center in Mount Pleasant, we are here to help you when it comes to treating your varicose veins. We have a variety of effective, minimally-invasive treatment options that can help you say goodbye to your veins once and for all. Contact our office today to schedule your appointment to learn more.

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