Why Do Pregnant Women Get Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are common during pregnancy, but usually fade after delivery. Follow these tips to manage the discomfort and make your pregnancy as pleasant as possible.
Awaiting the birth of a child is often a joyous time. But for 40 percent of pregnant women, it comes with an uncomfortable side effect: varicose veins.
Shortly after childbirth, pregnancy-related varicose veins tend to disappear, and for that reason, don’t require medical intervention. But while you’re carrying your baby, you may experience the uncomfortable symptoms of varicose veins — pain, swelling, cramping, and tired legs. Fortunately, alleviating those symptoms can be accomplished with some simple, at-home remedies.
Why Varicose Veins Appear During Pregnancy
Changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy may lead to the development of bulging, twisting varicose veins. When carrying a baby, the body produces excess blood to nourish both the mother and the fetus. This occurs at the same time the pregnancy hormone progesterone weakens the vein walls, making it harder for the veins to manage that extra volume of blood. A third factor is the additional weight the growing baby puts on the abdominal veins, which, in turn, slows circulation between the pelvis and the heart.
All of these components strain the vein valves whose job it is to return blood to the heart. These tiny flaps become overwhelmed by the force of gravity when pumping blood from the legs up to the heart. Eventually, the veins swell under the skin and appear as protruding varicose veins.
Treating Varicose Veins During Pregnancy
Besides the legs, varicose veins may also develop on the vulva and rectum as hemorrhoids. Although surgical treatment isn’t necessary because the varicose veins will typically recede after delivery, you should alert your doctor to the condition, especially if there are any skin changes or if the veins bleed. Varicose veins can increase the risk of blood clots, so you’ll need to be monitored for that, too.
During your pregnancy, try these self-care tips to manage any discomfort. Each can help counteract the swelling, pain, and cramping that comes along with varicose veins.
- Stay Active. Always check with your doctor about which exercises are safe, but walking and swimming are common low-impact workouts that strengthen the calf muscles. When you work your calf muscles, you’re also helping the vein valves push blood back to the heart.
- Don’t Sit or Stand For Too Long. Sitting or standing for long hours adds pressure to already stressed veins. Give yourself — and your veins — a break by taking brief strolls periodically or flexing your ankles while you sit.
- Put Your Feet Up. An easy way to encourage blood flow back to the chest is by elevating your legs above your heart several times a day. Doing so makes it easier for your veins to circulate blood freely between the extremities and the heart.
- Ditch the High Heels. Instead of heels, switch to flats that work the calf muscles when you walk. Also avoid tight-fitting garments, especially around the waist. Tightly cinching your waist will block blood flow between the inferior vena cava (a large vein in the abdomen) and the extremities.
- Sleep on Your Left Side. Your sleeping position can either help — or hinder — your circulation. To relieve pressure on the inferior vena cava and boost blood flow, sleep on your left side.
- Wear Compression Stockings. These tightly woven socks provide the extra support your veins need to pump blood back to the heart. By compressing the veins, the stockings prevent blood from pooling in the legs.
- Stock Up on Vitamin C. Vitamin C plays a vital role in your circulatory system. That’s because your body uses it to produce collagen, a substance that repairs and keeps blood vessels strong.
Visit the Vein Specialists
If your varicose veins don’t go away within a year after delivery, or you want to know more about how to take care of your varicose veins while pregnant, visit the vein specialists at Premier Heart and Vein Care. We’ll discuss all your surgical and non-surgical treatment options. Contact us today to set up an appointment.
At What Age Do Varicose Veins Usually Appear?
Varicose veins typically strike older adults, but younger people may also be at risk. Here’s why.
As you age, your chances of developing varicose veins increases. But even before you reach age 40, you may still see raised ropes of blue and purple veins on your legs and feet. That’s because varicose veins can strike at any age depending on lifestyle, heredity, and other factors.
Statistically, varicose veins predominantly affect women and older adults. Of the roughly 20 percent of U.S. adults who have varicose veins, 22 million women and 11 million men between the ages of 40 and 80 suffer from the condition.
Nevertheless, younger people, especially women of childbearing years, can also develop varicose veins. At any age, it’s important to know your risk factors, take measures to protect your vein health, and seek treatment when symptoms interfere with your quality of life.
Risk Factors for Varicose Veins
To understand the risk factors for varicose veins, you first need to know how the veins in your body work. After the arteries circulate oxygenated blood to your tissues and organs, the blood returns to the heart via the veins. Your veins are able to pump blood back to the heart with the help of small valves that push blood upward.
However, if the valves weaken, the blood pools within the veins and stretches the vein walls. This causes the veins to swell out from under the skin and become what we call varicose veins. These veins are more likely to appear on the legs because those valves have to work the hardest to push blood upward against the force of gravity. In addition to their unsightly appearance, varicose veins can also cause uncomfortable symptoms, including pain, swelling, cramping, itching, and an overall feeling of heaviness in the legs.
The likelihood you’ll develop varicose veins stems from many factors, and age is just one of them. Here are the top five reasons varicose veins might appear:
- Age. Damaged vein valves are the primary cause of varicose veins — and aging is a major factor in weakening these valves. Consequently, as the valves lose their elasticity and strength, the risk of varicose veins rises.
- Pregnancy. About 40 percent of pregnant women develop varicose veins due to hormonal changes. Blood volume surges to nourish the growing fetus, putting more pressure on the veins in the pelvis and legs. At the same time, the pregnancy hormone progesterone widens veins — a leading factor in the formation of enlarged varicose veins. Luckily, the condition usually disappears after delivery.
- Heredity. Varicose veins tend to run in families. So if close family members suffer from varicose veins, you’re likely to have them, too.
- Hormone Therapy. The hormone estrogen contained in birth control pills or hormone replacement medications prescribed to lessen the symptoms of menopause may increase your risk of developing varicose veins.
- Lifestyle. Extra weight adds to the stress put on the veins in your legs and abdomen. A regular exercise routine that focuses specifically on building up calf muscles — such as walking and biking — helps support the veins as they pump blood back to the heart. Further, if you spend hours during the day sitting at a desk, be sure to get your blood flowing again by taking frequent short walks and flexing your ankles while seated.
Fortunately, you can still avoid varicose veins even if you have one of these risk factors. Exercising, wearing compression stockings, elevating your feet several times a day, and maintaining a healthy weight are great self-care methods to lower the risks of varicose veins or reduce the symptoms.
Treating Varicose Veins
Surgical treatment options are also available to eliminate varicose veins. Minimally invasive techniques include sclerotherapy, in which a substance is injected into the damaged vein to force it to close and gradually disappear. Similarly, ablation procedures that collapse the vein with either laser or radiofrequency waves are also popular treatment methods.
You can choose one of the newest techniques to treat varicose veins, as well. One such innovation is VenaSeal. During this procedure, a proprietary adhesive is injected into the damaged vein that closes it, allowing blood to flow to healthier veins. All of these treatments use little to no anesthesia and are done on an outpatient basis.
At Premier Heart and Vein Care, keeping your veins healthy at any age is our top priority. Whether you suffer from varicose veins or believe you are at risk of developing the condition, we will discuss all your treatment options and help you decide on the right one for your individual circumstances. Contact us today to set up an appointment.
Should I See a Doctor for My Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins can directly impact your health and quality of life — here’s how to know if you’re at risk.
While varicose veins may not pose an immediate risk for some people, they are a serious health concern for thousands of others. In fact, varicose veins may result in painful leg swelling, numbness, skin ulcers that refuse to heal, infections, excessive bleeding, blood clots, and more.
These symptoms make it difficult to enjoy daily activities and can, in some cases, be life-threatening. Keep an eye out for the following signs to determine if your varicose veins are putting you at risk:
1. Swollen, Tender Skin
While varicose veins are a common part of the aging process — a result of worn-out valves that are no longer able to effectively pump blood back to the heart — it’s important to pay close attention to your veins as they change. In particular, varicose veins are a risk factor for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that develops deep within the body.
Signs you may have DVT include cramps, discoloration, swelling, and skin that is red, tight, tender and/or warm to the touch.
2. Legs that Ache, Throb, or Feel Uncharacteristically Weak
Blood that fails to circulate properly and pools in the veins can cause patients to experience persistent aches and pains throughout the day. Others may notice that their legs feel weak or heavy. These symptoms are often heightened during warm weather or as a result of excessive sitting or standing.
It’s important to pay attention to these signs of poor vein health, as they can make day-to-day tasks more difficult, directly impacting your quality of life.
3. Itchy, Dry Skin and/or Discoloration
Leg ulcers are breaks in the skin, or lesions, that usually impact tissues below the wound. If left untreated, they can cause serious, life-threatening infections.
Dry, itchy skin, discoloration, and/or a rash on your lower legs or around your ankles all indicate poor circulation and warn of an impending ulcer. Other signs of a leg ulcer include swelling and firm skin that feels almost hard to the touch.
Seeking Treatment for Varicose Veins
If you’re experiencing any of the signs and symptoms described above, it’s important to make an appointment with a vein specialist as soon as possible. A vein expert will conduct a comprehensive exam and use the latest in diagnostic equipment to determine the best course of action.
Common forms of modern vein treatments include:
- VenaSeal™: VenaSeal is a type of “glue” injected into spider or varicose veins to create a barrier. This barrier prevents blood from entering the unhealthy vein, thus closing it off and relieving many painful vein-related symptoms.
- Venefit™: Venefit is designed to treat varicose veins, including those that are larger or located deep within the body. During this procedure, a vascular surgeon threads a thin catheter into the abnormal vein and administers radiofrequency energy. This causes the vein to collapse and shrink.
- Varithena®: Varithena is the only foam treatment that's been approved by the FDA to treat large leg veins. Once injected into the vein, the foam irritates the vein lining, causing it to close. After treatment, the body redirects blood to neighboring veins so circulation is improved and varicose vein symptoms are resolved.
- Sclerotherapy: Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat varicose and spider veins. It involves injecting a sclerosant, or solvent, into the damaged veins, causing them to collapse. This outpatient procedure is typically performed in less than an hour.
These are just a few of the many varicose vein treatment options available. Don’t put your health on hold any longer — get in touch with Premier Heart & Vein Care today to set up an appointment with a vein specialist.
How to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis
There are simple steps patients can take to reduce their chances of developing a potentially dangerous blood clot.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) refers to a blood clot that forms deep in a leg vein. Roughly 600,000 Americans develop DVT every year, according to the Surgeon General. Not only does DVT cause painful swelling and discolored skin, it can also lead to a potentially serious pulmonary embolism (PE) if the clot travels to the lungs.
Normally, platelets and proteins in the bloodstream form a clot when a blood vessel is cut. In this case, the clot prevents the body from losing too much blood. However, the danger arises when there is no damage to the vessel but a clot occurs anyway, likely due to a condition called venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency occurs when the valves in the veins are unable to pump blood back up to the heart. As blood pools in the veins, there is a greater chance of clotting.
Several factors put people at a higher risk of DVT. These include a family or personal history of clotting disorders, being overweight, living a sedentary lifestyle, and smoking. The odds of DVT also rise when women are pregnant or undergoing hormone replacement therapy. People who are bedridden for long periods in the hospital must be carefully watched for DVT, as well.
Yet individuals at heightened risk of DVT can lower their chances with some prevention tips. Getting treatment at the first signs of DVT can also help avoid a more serious condition, such as a PE.
By following these precautions, patients can reduce their chances of developing blood clots.
- Don’t Sit or Stand for Too Long. Sitting or standing for long periods tends to cause blood to pool in the veins. In the case of long plane or car trips, get up and move around at least every two hours. When seated, encourage proper circulation by flexing ankles in a circular motion.
- Drink Plenty of Water. When muscles don’t get enough hydration, they tighten up and restrict blood flow in the veins. While drinking plenty of water is always recommended to maintain good blood flow, it’s especially true when traveling long distances. Another tip is to avoid alcohol, which can cause dehydration.
- Get Regular Exercise. Even a simple workout like walking for 30 minutes a day builds up the calf muscles so they can support the veins in pumping blood upwards. Further, since extra weight ups the chance of DVT, exercise can help maintain a healthy lifestyle and keep blood clots at bay.
- Wear Compression Stockings. Compression stockings aid circulation by squeezing the leg veins and forcing blood flow back to the heart. Available in drugstores and medical supply outlets, the strongest compression stockings can only be purchased with a doctor’s prescription.
- Treat Varicose Veins. According to a recent study, having varicose veins increases the odds of DVT by 5.3 times. By proactively treating varicose veins, patients may also decrease their risk of DVT
Anyone who suspects they have a blood clot should visit a doctor immediately. An ultrasound exam or a venogram — a test during which a dye is injected into a vein followed by an X-ray — are used to diagnose DVT. The condition is then treated with an anticoagulant medication.
We’re Vein Specialists
The staff at Premier Heart & Vein Care are experts in diagnosing and treating varicose veins and other vein disorders. We also can assess your risk of DVT and recommend therapies to prevent blood clots. Make an appointment today to ensure your vein health for many years to come.
Are Varicose Veins Dangerous When Pregnant?
Pregnancy comes with all kinds of unexpected surprises -- your feet can change size, you’re craving strange foods, and your skin can even change pigmentation. Varicose veins during pregnancy can also come as a surprise. Learn about varicose veins during pregnancy and pregnancy-friendly vein care options.
What Are Varicose Veins?
Your veins bring deoxygenated blood from your body back to your heart to get more oxygen. The blood often travels long distances, like from your feet back up to your chest. When your vein walls become stressed, they can’t quite push the blood back as efficiently as they used to.
This causes blood to pool, leading to bulging and purple- or blue-colored veins. These varicose veins most commonly form in the legs and groin.
Why Do Women Get Varicose Veins During Pregnancy?
Pregnant women are at higher risk for varicose veins. During pregnancy, your uterus gradually grows larger to accommodate the growing baby. As your womb grows, it places pressure on a vein called your inferior vena cava. This is the major vein that carries blood from your lower body back to your heart. As pressure is placed on the vein, it may begin to bulge and develop varicosity. Changes in your body’s hormones also make varicose veins more likely. Specifically, the hormone progestin makes veins wider and more susceptible to varicosities.
About 10 to 20% of women may develop varicose veins during pregnancy. Certain factors make varicose veins more common. For example, if your mother or grandmother developed varicose veins, you are at higher risk. Poor cardiovascular health may also increase your risk.
Varicose Vein Treatment Options During Pregnancy
Many pregnant women wonder about vein treatment options for varicose veins. The best treatment is to prevent varicose veins from developing in the first place. Some factors, like genetics and your uterus growing, are outside of your control. However, taking the following steps may prevent varicose veins during pregnancy:
- Avoid prolonged periods of sitting or standing, as this causes blood to pool in your legs.
- Stay physically active, even though the third trimester. Walking, swimming, and body weight exercises can help. Talk to your doctor about safe options for you.
- Don’t wear high-heeled shoes.
- Sleep on your left side. Your inferior vena cava runs down the right side of your body, so sleeping on the left reduces pressure on this important vein.
- Lower your sodium intake to reduce swelling.
- Drink lots of water.
- Wear maternity support hosiery, which keeps blood flowing in your legs.
The good news is that most women's varicose veins go away within three months after delivery. For this reason, surgical vein treatment during pregnancy is not usually recommended. If veins persist, however, you may want to consider vein treatment. Make an appointment in the early postpartum period to learn about the best vein care treatment options for you.
Do Veins Grow Back After a Radiofrequency Ablation?
Millions of people suffer from varicose veins in the U.S., and every year, many of them find relief from their symptoms through state-of-the-art varicose vein treatments like radiofrequency ablation. Many of these techniques are minimally-invasive, which means they can be done in the office without general anesthesia and without long incisions or large scars. Plus, they can be performed on an outpatient basis, with a fast return to the patient’s normal routines.
Another benefit of today’s varicose vein treatments: They’re extremely effective, and most everyone who has their veins treated can expect a high degree of success and an extremely low risk of recurrence. However, in some cases, there is a very low risk a problematic vein will form in the same area. Understanding the risk of recurrence - and why it can occur - is an important part of getting ready for your treatment.
Radiofrequency Ablation and Varicose Vein Recurrence
Radiofrequency ablation or RFA uses intense, controlled heat energy to irritate or “damage” the lining of a damaged vessel. Once the lining is irritated, it causes the vein to collapse on itself, shutting off the flow of blood through the vein. Instead, blood is rerouted to healthy veins to promote normal circulation in the area. Over time, the scarred vein tissue is usually absorbed into the body.
RFA is an extremely effective vein treatment technique. But as with other vein treatment options, there is a very minor risk of recurrence of varicose veins in the same location. Typically, recurrence occurs for one of three primary reasons:
- The doctor is inexperienced in using RFA. One of the most important things you can do to ensure your procedure is a success is to select a doctor who’s experienced in a variety of vein treatment techniques. Skilled, experienced vein doctors can make sure the technique they use is optimized for your needs so you can enjoy the best possible outcome.
- The patient’s veins and vein health were not properly evaluated. Having a thorough vein health evaluation prior to treatment is vitally important for determining the underlying cause of your varicose veins. An evaluation helps your doctor decide which treatment option is most likely to offer long-term success based on your health profile.
- The patient is genetically predisposed to varicose veins. There’s really nothing you can do about your genes, but whether you’re genetically more likely to develop varicose veins or not, you can - and should - take steps to improve your vascular health after your varicose vein treatment. That means following the doctor’s recommendations during recovery as well as leading a healthy lifestyle, with a balanced diet high in fiber and low in sodium and unhealthy fats, regular moderate exercise, and drinking lots of fluids. Keeping your weight under control can also help by decreasing pressure on the tiny valves inside your veins.
Eliminate Painful Varicose Veins Once and For All
Varicose veins should never be ignored. Even if they don't cause painful symptoms, they can still be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. Take the next step toward better circulatory health. Call Premier Heart and Vein Care at 1-805-979-4777 and schedule your vein health evaluation today.
How to Avoid Varicose Veins
Almost everyone knows someone who has suffered from varicose veins. After deciding on the best vein treatment for these abnormal blood vessels, many patients want to know how to prevent additional ones from forming. Individuals who have not developed these unwanted veins seek to avoid the cosmetic and health issues linked to them. This is particularly important when elevated risk factors are present.
What Are the Advantages of Venefit?
Varicose veins affect up to 35 percent of Americans, and those with a family history of the condition are more likely to suffer from varicose veins, reports the Society for Vascular Surgery. While surgical removal of varicose veins is available, it can lead to scarring and extensive recovery periods. However, a newer, more effective treatment, known as Venefit™, offers significant advantages over other treatment options.
What to Expect After a Sclerotherapy Procedure
Physicians consider sclerotherapy a convenient and highly successful vein treatment when a patient seeks to eliminate spider veins or small varicose vessels. Many individuals about to undergo the procedure wonder how they will feel after a session and when they will know if it was successful.
8 Factors that Put You At Risk for Vein Disease
More than 31 million Americans have some form of vein disease, making this a very prevalent public health problem. Your veins are responsible for pushing deoxygenated blood from your tissues back to the heart to be replenished with oxygen. When the veins become weakened, they can no longer efficiently transport blood. This leads to a phenomenon known as chronic venous insufficiency, or venous disease. Learning the factors that place you at risk for vein disease can help you take action to prevent this health condition.
1. Older Age
Veins naturally change as you grow older. Your vein walls will become thinner and weaker over time, which can cause blood to pool in the veins. Individuals over age 50 are most susceptible to venous disease.
2. Physical Inactivity
Physical inactivity is one of the biggest culprits in contributing to vein disease. Getting plenty of exercise throughout the day keeps your circulatory system working properly.
3. Being a Woman
Women are more likely to develop vein disease and men. Scientists believe this may be due to differing levels of certain hormones that place women at higher risk.
Overweight or obese individuals have a markedly higher risk for varicose veins and advanced vein disease. Carrying excess body weight causes your veins to work harder to deliver blood back to the heart. Over time, this can cause blockages in veins or may weaken vein walls. Losing weight is one of the best ways to lower your risk for chronic venous insufficiency.
5. Sitting or Standing for Extended Periods of Time
Do you sit at an office desk for most of the day? If so, you are placing yourself at higher risk for vein disease. Prolonged periods of sitting or standing can cause blood to pool in your legs, leading to vein problems. Get up and move around to keep your blood pumping efficiently.
Pregnancy puts a strain on your circulatory system. In particular, veins in the legs can become compressed by the weight gain associated with bearing a child. This compression may cause venous disease. Fortunately, most affected veins return to normal after childbirth, although you may remain at elevated risk for vein disease in the future.
7. Family History of Vein Disease
Some aspects of venous disease are hereditary. If you have a first-degree relative (e.g., parent, sibling, or child) with varicose veins or chronic venous insufficiency, you are also at greater risk.
8. Varicose Veins
Varicose veins occur when blood pools in the veins, causing them to bulge and become an unsightly purple or blue color. These varicose veins are a sign of venous insufficiency. If you notice yourself beginning to develop varicose veins, visit your vein doctor for diagnosis and treatment options.