Veins are thin-walled structures in which a set of valves allows blood to flow in one direction in the body. The heart pumps oxygenated blood to the body tissues through the thicker-walled arteries; the veins return the blood to the heart. Veins near the surface of the skin are called superficial veins; veins in the muscles of the arms and legs are called deep veins.
Damaged vein walls obstruct blood circulation, causing blood to pool and flow retrograde (backward) when muscles relax. This causes an abnormally high pressure to build up in the veins. This increase in pressure leads to further stretching and twisting of the veins, more swelling, further incompetence of the valves in the veins, sluggish blood flow, and possibly the formation of blood clots. Ultimately, this condition can lead to various diseases known as venous disorders.
Varicose Veins (Varices)
Varicose veins are tortuous, swollen veins near the surface of the skin. They develop when weak or defective venous valves allow blood to return or when it stagnates in the vein. Chronic obstruction of the veins can also lead to varicose veins, but in most cases no underlying abnormality can be detected. Varicose veins are quite common, with women affected twice as often as men. They usually occur on the legs, but can also occur on the anus, where they are called hemorrhoids. Although they do not pose a serious health risk, varicose veins can be removed for cosmetic reasons or if they cause discomfort.
Women have a higher risk of developing varicose and spider veins. Pregnancy, older age and obesity can increase the risk of varicose and spider veins.
Three reasons your veins may be visible, and when to worry
Ah, those visible veins that change the appearance of your legs! We all want to know that our veins are healthy and functioning properly. But that doesn’t mean we want to see them through our skin! Unfortunately, there are several factors that increase the likelihood of your veins becoming visible.
Your age affects your veins.
The older you get, the more visible your veins become. And why? As you age, your skin gets thinner, and at the same time your veins get weaker, they get stretched and accumulate more blood. Both together lead to larger veins that are easily visible through the skin.
Your body weight makes the veins visible.
If you are underweight or have very little body fat, your veins are closer to the surface of the skin and are more visible. At the same time, if you are overweight, you put more pressure on your legs. This, in turn, can make it more difficult for blood to return to your heart, as it flows against gravity. This means that the congested blood can stretch the veins and change their color, making them darker. At this point, you would also notice visible veins, which are a sign of our next factor.
Vein disease and visible veins.
Even without aging, vein disease can lead to the development of varicose veins, and they are more visible than well-functioning veins. Varicose veins develop when the valves in the veins, typically in the leg veins, no longer function properly. As a result, blood can’t drain out of the legs and pools in the veins. As the blood accumulates, the veins darken, bulge and become more visible. You may also develop symptoms such as swelling, cramping or pain in the legs, itching and heaviness in the legs.
Keep in mind: Varicose veins affect up to 35% of Americans. Many people believe they can ignore veins, dismissing them as merely unsightly but not dangerous. But here’s the thing: While the veins themselves don’t cause serious medical problems, their appearance could be a sign of larger issues brewing beneath the surface of your skin.
Signs of a varicose vein problem
Varicose veins are a visible symptom of venous insufficiency, so they are helpful indicators. Other symptoms include chronic leg swelling, especially those that worsen throughout the day, heavy legs and, surprisingly, pelvic pain.
Why is it important to recognize and treat venous insufficiency? The answer is this: In this condition, varicose veins are just the tip of the iceberg. In severe cases, venous insufficiency can lead to deep vein thrombosis (a clot that forms in the veins deep in the legs). Deep vein thrombosis is a medical emergency because if the clot breaks loose from the leg veins, it can travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism) and threaten your life.
If a person has no symptoms or discomfort and does not mind the sight of varicose veins, treatment may not be necessary. Most people with varicose veins can get enough relief with home remedies, such as compression stockings.
However, if symptoms do not improve readily, medical treatment may be needed to relieve pain or discomfort or to treat complications such as leg ulcers, skin discoloration or swelling.
Most people also want treatment for cosmetic reasons to get rid of the “ugly” varicose veins.
Some treatment options include:
- Ligation and stripping
- Radiofrequency ablation
- Endovenous laser treatment
- Transilluminated powered phlebectomy
Fortunately, many varicose veins can be treated quickly and with minimally invasive procedures. And the possibility of diagnosing a larger, potentially life-threatening problem? Every moment of a so-called cosmetic consultation is worth it!
Did you find this insightful? Find out if black lipstick is attractive here.