First of all, what are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are bulging, purple or bluish veins that appear close to the skin’s surface. They are most commonly found on the legs and ankles, but may also appear in the pelvic region or other areas. Varicose veins may have little or no discomfort, or they can be extremely uncomfortable. They can even lead to ulceration of the nearby skin.
Why do varicose veins are most often occur in the legs?
It’s important to remember that the function of the veins is to return blood to the heart…this means the leg veins are pumping against gravity. A one-way valve system in the veins insures the blood will move along in one direction, however, excess strain or pressure on the veins may cause damage to those one-way valves. When valves are not functioning properly, blood may pool in the areas, causing the vein to bulge and appear darker in color.
So, what do varicose veins have to do with pregnancy?
While there are various causes of varicose veins, such as heredity, standing or sitting for prolonged periods, menopause or obesity, a common cause of varicose veins is pregnancy. As the size of the uterus continually increases during pregnancy, it puts more and more stress on the interior leg veins (inferior vena cava), which directly affect the leg veins. Pregnancy also causes increased blood flow throughout the body, which can lead to enlarged veins.
How can you prevent or minimize varicose veins during pregnancy?
Keep in mind that leg veins fight against gravity to transport blood back to the heart. Therefore, anything that you can do to limit the effects of gravity will be greatly helpful. For example, keeping legs elevated as often as possible is one of the best things you can do to prevent varicose veins during pregnancy. Also, the more weight you put on, the more weight your legs have to fight against, so it is highly advisable to maintain the weight range recommended by your doctor. Daily exercise is also important to keep circulation going, including moderate exercise such as walking. Wearing compression stockings also helps support the leg veins, making their job easier.
While we’ve just listed several things you should do, it’s also important to note what you shouldn’t do. It is crucial to avoid sitting or standing for long periods at time. Make sure to rest, elevate your legs, or get up and walk around regularly to improve circulation and lessen the effects of gravity. Avoid tight-fitting clothes and shoes, that may restrict circulation.
If I develop varicose veins during pregnancy, should I be concerned?
For the most part, varicose veins are not serious, and treatment can wait until after delivery. There are a few instances in which one should see a vascular doctor, even during pregnancy. If varicose veins become painful or ulcerated, your vascular doctor can determine if they need immediate treatment.
Report any pain or swelling in the limbs to your vascular doctor, as pain and swelling may indicate Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a condition wherein a blood clot may form in the deeper leg veins. These blood clots are dangerous, as they may break off and be carried to the lungs, which results in a serious condition known as Pulmonary Embolism. If you experience pain in the chest area, rapid heartbeat, or coughing up blood, call 911 immediately.
Also, there is a condition known as superficial venous thrombosis, wherein a small blood clot may occur near the skin’s surface. The area may become swollen and painful, and may cause burning or heat sensations. Please see your vascular doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
What are my varicose vein treatment options?
Varicose veins cause by pregnancy tend to improve after giving birth, so as long as the symptoms are mild with no pain, it is advisable to wait 3-4 months before seeking varicose vein treatment, to see how much they improve on their own. You can greatly assist the healing process by remembering to exercise, elevate the legs, and wear compression hose.
Once you’ve decided that you want to have the varicose veins removed/treated, there are several options:
VenefitTM also known as VNUS closure, uses radiofrequency to shrink varicose veins, minimizing their appearance, and re-routing blood flow to healthier veins.
Sclerotherapy is used for both spider vein treatment and varicose vein treatment. Sclerotherapy is a safe, non-surgical procedure by which a solution is injected into the faulty vein, causing it to safely close.
Endovenous Laser Ablation
Endovenous Laser Ablation, or EVLA, uses laser energy to shrink and close damaged veins. The procedure is minimally invasive, whereby a small laser fiber is inserted into the vein. The procedure is quick and painless.
In summary, while there are many causes for varicose veins, pregnancy is a common cause (especially if you’ve had multiple pregnancies). The condition is rarely serious, however, you should be aware of symptoms that may indicate a more serious condition. Take steps to prevent or minimize varicose veins during pregnancy, and know that treatment options are safe, painless and highly effective. Thanks for reading!
The San Diego Vascular Center specializes in diagnosis and treatment for any and all vascular health issues for patients in San Diego County, Orange County and Riverside County. For more information or to set an appointment, please contact us.
Directions from Riverside: Take the 91 E. Follow the I-215 S and I-15 S to Gamble Ln in Escondido. Take Exit 29 from the I-15 S. Continue on Gamble Ln to W Citronado Pkwy.
Directions from Orange County: Take the 5 S and CA-78 E to Gamble Ln, Escondido. Take Exit 29 from the I-15 S. Continue on Gamble Ln to W Citronado Pkwy.