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Leg Health

Understanding varicose veins and venous insufficiency

Varicose veins, those large, serpentine capillaries just under the skin on the calves and thighs, are the most common circulatory problem of the lower extremities. It is estimated that 40 percent of women in the United States have them. More than 20 million men and women are significantly affected by this condition. In most cases, those with varicose veins also have another circulatory condition known as chronic venous insufficiency. Caused by inadequate blood flow through the blood vessels inside the legs, chronic venous insufficiency is most often a complication of a thrombus formation (blood clot) in the deep veins. Fortunately, a lot can be done to relieve the symptoms of these disorders and prevent them from occurring in the first place.

What are the causes of vein problems?

If your veins have trouble carrying blood from your feet back to your heart you have a vein problem. The effect of your venous condition will usually be felt in your legs. Vein problems may be cosmetic (bulging or varicose), or they may cause your legs to ache , burn, or swell. Some vein problems can cause blood clots or damage skin tissue (ulcers). But be reassured that no matter how serious your vein problem is, treatment can help control your symptoms.

What are your risk factors?

Both men and women can be affected by vein problems. Your general health condition and life style habits may increase your chances of developing a problem. Heredity, surgery, injury and pregnancy are also risk factors you can't necessarily control. But you can control other risks, such as being overweight, not exercising, and standing for long periods of time.
  • Heredity may cause weak veins and is the top risk factor for vein problems.
  • Surgery, especially near the hips and pelvis may make some vein problems more likely.
  • Standing for long periods makes your veins work against gravity raising your risk of vein problems.

Improving your condition

Whether your vein problem is simply cosmetic or poses a health risk, you and your doctor can work together to improve your condition. Your problem may be controlled by reducing the swelling in your legs. But, if symptoms worsen or threaten your health, then your doctor will determine if medical or surgical treatment is needed.

What can you do?

You can prevent further progression of the disorder and improve your quality of life. Exercise, medical compression stockings, life-style changes and possibly specialized medical procedures may be necessary for you to be successful. Remember, your goal is to improve blood flow back to your heart. For more information on medical compression stockings, please click here.

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