What Causes Varicose Veins During Pregnancy?

So…you’re expecting a little bundle of joy! Congratulations! But, what you might not have expected were little bundles of veins—varicose veins—popping up all over your legs. Along with pregnancy, unfortunately, comes an increased risk of varicosities. Read on to learn more about how expecting a baby and this unsightly, and sometimes painful, side effect often go hand-in-hand.

What Causes Varicose Veins During Pregnancy?

Unfortunately, pregnancy itself is one of the major risk factors for varicose veins. Varicose veins develop when the valves that bring blood back to the heart from the legs become damaged. Blood pools in the veins, causing bulging, swelling, and discomfort. There are several causes of varicose veins during pregnancy:

  • Heredity. One of the biggest contributing factors of varicose veins is one you have no control over: heredity. If other women in your family have experienced varicose veins, the chances are greater that you will, too. Knowing your family’s history of varicose veins can help you know whether you are at a higher risk of getting them.
  • Increased blood volume. During pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume doubles to supply blood to both her and her baby. This increased volume puts extra pressure on the blood vessels, especially those in the legs, which have to work against gravity to push the extra blood back up to the heart. The speed at which a pregnant woman’s blood returns from her legs, in turn, decreases due to the heavy volume. These factors together increase the chances of blood pooling in the legs and ankles.
  • Hormones. Hormone levels rise during pregnancy, causing the vein walls to become more dilated and relaxed, resulting in an increased risk of varicosities.
  • Increased pressure from the uterus. As the uterus grows, it puts pressure on a large vein on the right side of the body, which increases pressure in the leg veins.
  • Additional factors. Being overweight, carrying multiples, and standing for long periods of time also increase a pregnant woman’s chances of developing varicose veins. Varicose veins also tend to get worse with age and with each subsequent pregnancy.

What Can I Do to Prevent Varicose Veins During Pregnancy?

While you can’t prevent all risk factors, especially a family history of varicose veins and hormonal changes, you can still take steps to help prevent or lessen the effects of varicose veins during pregnancy.

  • Watch your weight. Keep your weight within the recommended range for your stage of pregnancy. Extra weight only increases the demands on your already overworked circulatory system.
  • Get moving. Exercise is key in preventing varicose veins, so take a walk or participate in some other form of low-intensity exercise daily.

If you’re having pain, even if it’s just a dull ache, or are just generally worried about your varicose veins, don’t hesitate to get help.

Compression Therapy in Sports: Can Compression Up Your Game?

Doctors often recommend compression therapy for patients with Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)—a condition where the valves in the leg veins are not working efficiently enough to pump blood back to the heart. Medical compression therapy includes garments or devices that provide compression to a particular body region. For example, for the treatment of CVI, a doctor might prescribe compression stockings or bandages for the legs.

Compression stockings are special stockings that help promote circulation in the legs. As a person walks, the contraction and relaxation of the calf muscles around the veins aid in moving blood toward the heart. The external compression of specialized hosiery, socks, or bandages act as a layer of muscle by gently squeezing the stretched vein walls together, allowing the valves to close. In this way, the stockings help to squeeze or push blood back up the leg in an effort to counteract pooling of blood in the leg and reduce the swelling that comes with it.

Venous disease sufferers aren’t the only ones using compression garments these days, though. A growing number of athletes has recently jumped on the compression therapy bandwagon. The use of compression therapy to enhance athletic performance during competition and to promote muscle recovery afterward has gained momentum in the sporting world over the past few years.

The theory behind the use of compression both during competition and recovery is that increasing blood flow through the veins aids in the clearance of metabolic by-products such as lactate that build up during muscle exertion. Theoretically, the increased clearance should improve recovery time and enhance athletic performance.

Several small studies have proven inconclusive on whether the use of compression improves athletic performance; however, many athletes have noted that it helps improve recovery time and prevent injuries. Many who wear compression garments during competition perceive less pain, soreness, and fatigue afterward, and others who use compression therapy following a workout note a comparatively shortened recovery time.

Whether or not compression theory really does help athletes improve their game remains to be seen; however, an increasing number of sporting apparel companies have jumped on the trend, as compression shorts, shirts, and other clothing items are now easily available for even the amateur athlete.

Although more scientific research needs to be done to show us whether compression therapy is truly beneficial for athletes, anecdotal evidence suggests that most athletes who wear compression report feeling much better post-workout than they do when not wearing it, which may go a long way toward enhancing individual athletic performance and recovery.

Varicose Veins: Not Just a Woman’s Issue

A common misconception is that only women suffer from varicose veins. In reality, a surprising 40 to 45 percent of men also suffer from varicose veins.

Why the Misconception?
While it’s true that cosmetic vein conditions, such as spider veins, arise mostly in women, there are other vein conditions—even painful ones—that occur in men almost equally. Varicose veins can be largely only cosmetic—possibly one reason why male patients are reluctant to seek out treatment. They either don’t notice, or the unsightliness doesn’t bother them. If there is pain, heaviness, or discomfort involved, men have a tendency to brush the problem off as something else—perhaps overuse or poor circulation.

Some doctors note, too, that men tend to wait to see their physician at a later stage of the condition than women do. Men tend to wait until the varicose veins are extremely painful or when they are starting to cause skin damage, which puts them at a higher risk of developing venous ulcers and other severe vein problems that are more complicated to treat.

What are the Causes, Symptoms, and Risk Factors?
Our hearts are responsible for pumping blood to other parts of the body via our arteries. Our veins then return that blood back to the heart. Veins contain valves that ensure the blood flows in the right direction; however, sometimes, these valves fail, causing blood to flow backward, pooling in the veins and causing them to expand.

The result is often a dark blue or purple, twisted vein near the skin’s surface, and symptoms include throbbing, aching, itching, or a “heaviness” in the legs. More severe symptoms can include bleeding from the vein and blood clots. Because the vascular structure of men is the same as that of women, men need to understand that they, too, are at risk for varicosities.

Varicose veins can occur in anyone, but men (and women) who sit or stand for long periods of time, specifically at their jobs, may be more susceptible to damaged veins. Varicose veins are largely hereditary, so men who have a family history of vein disease are also at a higher risk of developing varicosities themselves.

What Can I Do to Prevent Varicose Veins?

Exercise: Keeping your vein walls strong through frequent exercise is the best way to prevent varicose veins. Any physical activity will help, but it is especially important to participate in exercises that involve the calves, which play a crucial role in maintaining blood flow from your legs back to your heart. Good activities include running, bike riding, and tennis.

Switch it Up: Sitting or standing in one place for too long can cause your blood to pool, putting you at increased risk of varicosities. Take frequent breaks during your day to stretch your legs, which will improve circulation. If you sit often, take time out regularly to stand up and walk around. Conversely, if your job requires you to stand for long periods of time, make it a point to sit down or simply stretch your legs for a few minutes every hour or two.

Elevate Your Legs: Elevating your legs can help alleviate the symptoms of varicose veins and allows your veins to have a bit of a break, as they won’t have to work quite so hard to pump the blood back to your heart.

Wear Compression Hose: Compression socks or leggings provide tension that helps push blood up from the ankle and redistributes it more evenly up the leg. Compression hose can be obtained with a doctor’s prescription or over-the-counter.

Watch What You Eat: Stay away from foods high in sodium, since salt can lead to fluid retention.

What Should I Do if I Suspect Varicosities?
Remember, varicose veins are not just a woman’s problem. Seek help today if you notice twisted, bulging veins in your legs, or if you are experiencing any throbbing, aching, itching, or bleeding. If your doctor does confirm varicosities, he or she will suggest ways to treat them.

Today’s treatment options are quick, noninvasive, and done on an outpatient basis. Recovery time is quick, and pain, if any, is minimal, so men no longer have an excuse not to consult a doctor’s care for their varicose veins.

Athletes and Varicose Veins

Most people associate varicose veins with pregnant or overweight, sedentary individuals, but did you know that even active, healthy adults can be plagued with this condition? Athletes who spend much of their time on their feet can place a lot of strain on the veins of the lower legs, which can lead to the development of varicose veins in the lower thighs and calves.

Certain sports, such as weightlifting, skiing, and backpacking, force the legs to support heavier weight over longer periods of time. Repetitive-motion activities—including tennis, cycling, and running—also increase the strain on the veins in the legs. The greater the intensity and regularity of the sport, the higher the likelihood of occurrence, but even occasional participation can result in varicose veins.

Our veins bring blood back to the heart, but when we walk or stand, the veins in our legs must battle gravity. If the valves in our leg veins aren’t working properly, some of the blood pools in the veins and puts pressure on the lower legs, resulting in unsightly varicose veins. During exercise, the muscles require more oxygen, so more blood comes down the legs through the arteries. This extra blood needs to be brought back up through the veins, but if the veins are not functioning properly, a lot of the blood stays down in the lower legs.

Symptoms of varicose veins may include tired or heavy legs after exercising, throbbing or heaviness in the legs, and localized pain and/or swelling. Only in extreme cases will these vein problems hinder athletic performance, and some varicose veins may even be asymptomatic, but even so, it is still a good idea to get any varicosities checked out, whether they are hindering athletic performance or not.

Although excess weight and inactivity are common factors contributing to varicose veins that don’t necessarily affect healthy athletes, other factors can play a role. If one of your parents has a vein disease, you are 33 percent more likely to have one as well. Your risk factor jumps to 90 percent if both parents have a vein condition. Women are more likely to develop varicose veins, as are people over age 50. Other risk factors include pregnancy and hormonal fluctuations. Although there is little you can do to avoid these risk factors, there are steps you can take to lower your risk of varicose veins.

If you’re already physically active, you can still add other preventive measures—including elevating your feet in the evenings and after exercising, as well as wearing compression stockings, to aid in healthy blood flow. Maintaining a diet low in sodium and high in fiber will help prevent water retention and constipation, factors that can increase your risk for varicose veins.

If you are still plagued by varicose veins, despite being physically active and taking preventive measures, it may be time to seek treatment. At Vein Center of Indiana, we offer many nonsurgical, noninvasive treatment options, including Endovenous Laser Therapy (EVLT), ambulatory phlebectomy, and sclerotherapy. Patients report little to no pain and are back to their usual activities with little downtime.

Surgery vs. Laser Treatment for Varicose Veins

In recent past, if a patient suffered from painful and unsightly varicose veins, a doctor would typically recommend vein ligation and stripping—a surgical procedure that removes the veins from the legs or thighs.

Ligation refers to the surgical tying off of the greater saphenous vein in the leg, while stripping refers to the removal of this vein through incisions in the groin area or behind the knee. Tying and removal of the vein are done to reduce the pressure of blood flowing backward through this large vein into the smaller veins that feed into it.

Varicose vein stripping is often done under general anesthesia, and although it is a safe and low-risk procedure, there are always possible side effects, including allergic reaction to the anesthesia, infection at the incision sites, heavy bleeding, blood clots, bruising or scarring, and nerve injury.

Stripping and ligation surgery typically takes 60-90 minutes, although more complicated cases may go longer. However, it is usually an outpatient surgery, so patients can go home the same day. Recovery typically takes two to four weeks, but actual recovery time will vary depending on the number and location of the veins that were removed.

For more than a decade, though, surgical vein ligation and stripping have been performed less frequently because of newer, less-invasive, forms of treatment.

One of these treatments is known as Endovenous Laser Therapy (EVLT). EVLT uses ultrasound to guide an optical fiber into the vein. A highly concentrated laser beam heats the walls of the veins and reduces them, causing unhealthy veins to contract and close up.

The patient is conscious (but given the option of oral or intravenous conscious sedation for relaxation), and the leg is numbed using local anesthesia. Laser accuracy allows the doctor to treat the vein without affecting surrounding tissue, and when the vein is closed, it is slowly absorbed into the surrounding soft tissue. Other healthy veins in the legs then take over and blood flow returns to normal.

EVLT is remarkably safe, but as always with any medical procedure, there are risks involved, including skin burns, nerve injury, and blood clots. The procedure also boasts a remarkable 98 percent success rate.

The procedure is typically done within an hour, and patients go home the same day. In studies, patients have reported a faster recovery time than with vein stripping, and EVLT can also be less expensive than stripping and ligation, depending on the number of veins treated.

Although both forms of treatment can be highly successful and have minimal side effects, EVLT is generally a faster and less painful approach, can be less expensive, does not involve general anesthesia, and can have a faster recovery time than vein stripping and ligation surgery. Talking with your doctor can help you decide which procedure is right for you.

Winter is the Perfect Time to Treat Your Varicose Veins

Snuggling up next to the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book while the blistery snow blows outside sounds dreamy to most people. The thought of going outside, especially to exercise, becomes less and less appealing to many as winter hits.

If you have varicose veins, you may actually welcome the cold weather, though, as it gives you an excuse to hide your unsightly veins under long pants. But, did you know that varicose veins may worsen in winter? The amount of exercise most people get usually decreases when the weather gets colder, and a variety of health problems, including varicose veins, can result from this more sedentary lifestyle.

Varicose veins—enlarged, twisted veins near the surface of the skin, predominantly in the legs—are partly hereditary; however, obesity, lack of exercise, and a bad diet can contribute to their development. Lack of movement forces veins to work harder to pump blood back to the heart.

Although it’s difficult to completely prevent varicose veins due to their hereditary nature, you can do several things to decrease your chances of getting them, including losing weight if you’re overweight, quitting smoking if you’re a smoker, and avoiding standing for long periods of time. Most important during the winter months is to get regular exercise. Get a gym membership or participate in indoor sports, such as basketball or racquetball. Find an indoor track or shopping mall and go walking with a friend. Or do a workout video at home.

While winter can make varicose veins worse, it is also a great time to get them treated. Many doctors will recommend that patients wear compression stockings before and after varicose vein treatment to boost blood circulation by applying pressure to the veins of the calves and ankles. Many people are more willing to wear compression stockings in the winter, when they offer warmth and protection against the cold, rather than in the hot summer months, when they are difficult to tolerate.

Varicose vein treatment can provide quick relief of symptoms, such as throbbing, aching, and cramping; however, changes in the physical appearance of the veins may take longer to achieve. Treating varicose veins in winter allows you sufficient time to heal and to begin seeing noticeable improvement in the appearance of your legs before warm months (and shorts and swimsuit seasons!) arrive.

Some patients may also need more than one treatment, so the earlier you begin your treatment plan, the more likely you are to achieve beneficial results before spring and summer come around.

If you’re suffering from the discomfort of varicose veins, now is the perfect time to seek treatment. Vein Center of Indiana, serving the greater Indianapolis area, is a leading provider in the treatment and removal of varicose and spider veins.

You May Be Able to Treat Your Varicose Veins for Little Out-of-Pocket Cost

The year is winding down, and although it’s likely a very busy time of the year for you, it’s also a good time to think about your health and do something about that leg pain that’s been keeping you from enjoying everyday activities.

The end of the year is the time to make sure you are getting the most out of your health insurance plan. If you have met your deductibles or have funds remaining in your Health Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you may be able to treat your leg pain for little out-of-pocket cost to you.

Deductibles, Maximum Out-of-Pocket Expenses and FSA Funds
Most insurance policies calculate deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket expenses based on the calendar year. Medical expenses incurred during the year are applied to your deductible and are paid out-of-pocket until that deductible is met.

Once your deductible is met, you incur little or no out-of-pocket for covered medical expenses.

So if you’ve met or nearly met your 2105 medical deductible, now is the perfect time to take care of any medical procedures you may have been putting off. But don’t wait, copays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses are reset on January 1, 2016.

As the end of the year approaches, it’s also a good time to check your policy and balances. If you’ve already met your deductible or if you have funds left in your FSA, and you’ve been putting off treating your leg pain, now is the time.

Schedule now to get your procedure before the end of the year. Don’t wait because medical facilities typically experience a heavy demand for procedures towards the end of the year as patients try to maximize their benefits.

Stop suffering, and schedule your varicose vein or spider vein procedure you have been putting off such as Endovenous Laser Therapy (EVLT), Ambulatory (micro) phlebectomy, or Sclerotherapy — maximize your insurance benefits and FSA account funds.

Chronic Vein Pain? Make The Most of Your FSA Balance

Start off 2016 pain-free by using your remaining 2015 FSA savings to schedule that chronic vein pain treatment you’ve been putting off.

The new year is just around the corner. If you have a health Flexible Spending Account (FSA), it’s time to check your balance and start thinking about how you can use, not lose, the money you’ve put into your account.

With the introduction of minimally invasive, non-surgical vein pain treatment procedures, you could be pain-free (with little down time and almost immediate pain relief) before the end of the year.

If you’ve been considering any of the following procedures, you now have a very important motivator to schedule your appointment: money.

☤ Sclerotherapy
☤ Microsclerotherapy
☤ Laser Surgery
☤ Endovenous Ablation Therapy
☤ Endoscopic Vein Surgery
☤ Ambulatory Phlebectomy

Medical facilities typically experience a heavy demand for procedures toward the end of the year as patients try to maximize their benefits, so the sooner you schedule your appointment, the better.

The fact that your procedure may be of little or no cost to you could be just the motivation you need to take care of those nagging aches and pains.  You don’t need to wait to schedule your non-surgical, minimally invasive vein pain treatments, such as Endovenous Laser Therapy (EVLT), Ambulatory (micro) Phlebectomy, or Sclerotherapy.

Take action now. Make the most of your benefits and make the most of the funds that are just waiting to relieve your vein pain this year. Start off 2016 without vein pain.

Six Reasons to See a Doctor About Your Varicose Veins

It is estimated that approximately half of the U.S. population suffers from some type of venous disease, with women making up about 55 percent of those affected. Of those afflicted with vein problems, 20 to 25 percent of women and 10 to 15 percent of men will have visible varicose veins. Varicose veins affect approximately one out of every two people age 50 and older, with many studies suggesting that those percentages increase significantly after age 70.

Varicose veins are common and, although often unsightly, they are generally not a serious health problem. In fact, many people can manage their varicose veins with home treatments, such as exercising, wearing compression stockings, and elevating the legs.

However, a few warning signs can indicate a more serious problem that warrant a doctor’s intervention. Below are six reasons you should see your doctor about your veins:

  1. Your vein becomes swollen, red, tender, or warm to the touch.
  2. One of the varicose veins begins to bleed.
  3. There are sores or a dark rash on the leg or near the ankles.
  4. The skin on your legs changes color and texture.
  5. Pain in the legs keeps you from your daily activities.
  6. The appearance of the veins is causing you distress.

Some of these warning signs may indicate serious problems, such as a blood clot in a deep vein, which can be serious and needs prompt attention. Others could be a sign of a clot or inflammation in a vein just under the skin, which is usually not dangerous but may still require treatment.

If you’re having pain, even if it’s just a dull ache, or are just generally worried about your varicose veins, don’t hesitate to get help.

Varicose Vein Prevention Tips

Are you currently dealing with varicose veins? If so, have you tried any of the prevention tips. If the methods described aren’t helping your symptoms – or you’re noticing they are getting worse – it may be time to see a physician to learn more about further options.