Heart and Vascular Care
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Have you ever felt the need to “put your feet up” at the end of a long day? Elevating your feet provides physical relief when your legs are tired but have you ever considered why?
When you have healthy and functioning veins, the veins keep blood flowing from your extremities back to your heart. These veins have valves that ensure that blood doesn’t move with gravity and only continuously flows downward but instead cycles back toward the heart.
Sometimes, however, these valves can leak, leading to swelling, aching, discoloration, and inflammation.
Spider veins vs. varicose veins
According to Dr. Niranjan Reddy, a cardiologist, varicose veins are “very prevalent but very underdiagnosed and undertreated.”
The terms “spider veins” and “varicose veins” are sometimes thought to be interchangeable. However, they do have differences. “They are examples of venous insufficiency, but at different points along the spectrum,” explains Dr. Reddy
Smaller, bluish-green veins that can easily be seen are called spider veins and are usually cosmetic issues. Varicose veins are typically larger, more swollen, bulge from the skin’s surface, and can lead to more serious problems if left untreated.
What to expect
Cardiologist Dr. Prasanth Lingam, says treatment for these vein issues involves lifestyle changes or simple outpatient procedures that “can often be done over a lunch break.”
If you are experiencing symptoms indicative of varicose veins—inflammation, pain, swelling, and discoloration—a doctor will order an ultrasound, which shows if blood is refluxing or leaking. When varicose veins go undiagnosed, the discomfort and swelling you experience can lead to skin breakdowns, ulcers, or infections.
Varicose veins are more common in women than in men. The most common risk factors for varicose veins include:
- Multiple pregnancies
- Being overweight
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High-heeled footwear
- Standing for prolonged periods
Those who are in professions where they are on their feet for long periods are at a higher risk for developing varicose veins, Dr. Reddy says.
Family history is an important factor as well. “Those who have one parent with varicose veins have a 40 percent chance of developing the problem,” Dr. Reddy says. “When someone has two parents with varicose veins, the risk increases to 70 percent.”
What you can do
Dr. Lingam’s best recommendation for prevention is to wear compression socks. Compression socks are not the same as medical-grade compression stockings; however, they can delay the onset of varicose veins if you’re dealing with several risk factors.
A lifestyle incorporating regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight is also important for reducing risk factors.
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