More than 7 out of 10 American women will suffer from vein problems before they reach their sixties and yet many of us don’t know what exactly a varicose vein is.
There’s no doubt any kind of visible leg vein can cause misery emotionally – especially when summer comes around and we want to wear shorts, a skirt or a swimsuit.
Too many older women feel compelled to hide their legs in long pants or jeans even when the weather is sweltering and suffer agonies of embarrassment by the pool or on the beach.
So how do you know for sure you have a varicose vein and should you be worried about it?
Varicose veins are swollen blood vessels, blue or purple in color and generally bulging out from the surface of the skin. They may appear twisted or “ropey” and can be accompanied by swelling of the vein itself and of the skin around it.
A varicose vein can appear anywhere on your leg from the ankle up to the groin but the most likely places are on the back of your calf or knee and – less commonly – the inside of your thigh.
You may think it is impossible to miss a problem like this but varicose veins symptoms are often confused with other things – many people confuse them with spider veins which are different and less serious medically.
Both these conditions are the result of weakened vein walls causing blood to pool in the legs resulting in visible surface veins. Healthy leg veins by and large are not visible to the naked eye. In the case of varicose veins the surface vein becomes visibly distended and prominent.
Spider veins on the other hand resemble a small fine network of veins well below the surface of the skin – something like the tiny branches of a tree or a spider’s web. Varicose veins are generally much bigger, more swollen and can generally be felt as well as seen. Run your fingers lightly over the problem vein and if you can feel it bulging out from the skin it is almost certainly a varicose vein.
There are some other physical symptoms of varicose veins that make them more easy to diagnose for sure:
1. Itchy or flaky skin around the affected vein sometimes accompanied by a burning sensation
2. A feeling of heaviness in the lower legs after standing or sitting still
3. Deep aching in the lower leg area which is difficult to relieve
4. Muscle cramps or pain in the lower legs
5. Moderate to severe swelling around the ankles – the ankle area appears puffy and swollen and the ankle bone may not be visible
Not all of these symptoms are present in all cases but if your leg veins fit the description and you have some of these other symptoms to a greater or lesser extent then the likelihood is that you have varicose veins. One of the main features is discomfort in your lower legs. Varicose vein pain is not always severe but it is noticeable and may be like a dull ache accompanied by a heavy feeling which will get worse after standing or being on your feet for any length of time.
The chances are that this will have impacted on your quality of life already. If your varicose vein symptoms are more severed – you may be finding it difficult to walk, stand or sit for very long and social and working life will be affected.
The good news if you suffer from this condition is that varicose vein treatment has advanced rapidly in recent years. You don’t need to put up with your varicose veins – indeed you shouldn’t. Varicose veins are considered a medical condition which although not serious in itself could develop in a very few cases into leg ulcers, blood clots and other health endangering conditions. As such they are covered by medicare and health insurance whereas no cover is available for spider veins which are seen as a largely cosmetic condition.
Varicose vein removal is possible nowadays with advanced laser treatments or with sclerotherapy. Do some research and then find a good vein clinic in your local area. Discuss all your options with a specialist physician before taking any action.
Whether you have one varicose vein or several – they are increasingly treatable – and with much less pain and discomfort than in years gone by.