Varicose veins are enlarged veins that can be blue, red or flesh colored.3 They are often raised above the skin on legs and can look like twisted bulging cords. Veins can become varicose when the vein valves that control blood flow become damaged or diseased, resulting in inefficient blood flow back to the heart. If left untreated, varicose veins can sometimes progress to a more serious form of vein (venous) disease called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI).1 Given the common misunderstanding that varicose veins are only a cosmetic issue, only 1.9 million of the more than 30 million Americans who suffer from varicose veins or CVI seek treatment.1, 10
What causes varicose veins?
Varicose veins occur when the valves in the leg veins no longer function properly, causing blood to pool in the legs.
What is chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) and what are the signs and symptoms?
CVI is a progressive medical condition that can worsen over time and that affects the veins and vessels in the leg that carry oxygen-poor blood back toward the heart. CVI is often preceded by varicose veins.2 Without treatment, some people with CVI may experience symptoms that can be debilitating and can significantly impact quality of life, including:2
- Leg heaviness and fatigue
- Leg or ankle swelling
- Leg pain, aching or cramping
- Varicose veins
- Skin changes or rashes
- Ulcers, open wounds or sores
See below for images of varicose veins and the signs and symptoms of CVI as it progresses.
Who is at risk for CVI?
CVI can affect anyone; gender and age are factors that may increase your risk.2 For example, women older than 50 are more likely than others to develop venous disease that can lead to CVI. Other factors that may increase your risk, include:2
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Lifestyle or occupation that requires prolonged standing
- Obesity or excess weight
- Current or previous pregnancies
Can varicose veins and CVI be prevented?
For mild forms of venous disease, lifestyle changes may be recommended to control existing symptoms and prevent others. The following measures may help prevent varicose veins and CVI:3
- Manage body weight
- Exercise regularly, focusing on exercises that work your legs (run or walk)
- Elevate your legs whenever possible
- Avoid prolonged standing or sitting
- Avoid clothes that are tight around the waist, groin or legs
- Avoid shoes that limit use of calf muscles (i.e., high heels)
- Eat a diet low in salt and rich in high-fiber foods
How can varicose veins be treated?
As varicose veins are often misunderstood as a cosmetic problem, many people living with them do not seek treatment. The good news is that there are minimally-invasive treatment options available for varicose veins and CVI.
VenefitTM targeted endovenous therapy is a minimally invasive treatment that uses radiofrequency ablation (heat) to seal off the affected vein, so blood gets re-routed to other veins. Covered by most insurance plans, the Venefit™ procedure allows for a short recovery and a quick return to everyday activities while also eliminating varicose veins and improving the appearance of the legs.11 , 12 , * Consult your insurance provider before seeking treatment.