Varicose veins occur due to poor functioning (malfunction) of valves in the deeper leg veins (venous insufficiency), making blood back up (pool) in the legs, with the resulting pressure causing surface veins to enlarge.
You are at greater risk if you:
- Are older
- Have other family members with varicose veins
- Are overweight
- Stand for long periods of time
For the maximum benefit, compression stockings must be worn every day and put on when first getting out of bed, before gravity has a chance to cause the legs to swell. Non-prescription compression (or pressure) stockings are sold in many pharmacies and medical supply stores. They are also available on the Internet. Many styles, colors, and strengths are available. Make sure they fit properly. You may need to measure your leg to assure proper fit. For people with arthritis, there are devices to help you put on compression stockings.
Herbal supplements with horse chestnut might help control some symptoms of varicose veins, but they will not eliminate the problem entirely. There is also concern regarding the purity of these over-the-counter products, as they are not regulated like prescription medications are.
To prevent varicose veins from getting worse:
- Lose weight
- Avoid tight clothing, which holds back blood from returning to the heart
- Elevate your legs
- Avoid long periods of standing
You might also see a doctor if you are concerned with how the veins appear and are considering having them removed. Insurance will usually not cover treatment of varicose veins for cosmetic reasons.
An exam will be done to evaluate blood flow (circulation) in your leg. An ultrasound test may be done to check for a blood clot.
You may be referred to a vein specialist (phlebologist) to discuss treatment options, which include:
- Endovenous (inside the vein) laser
- Radiofrequency treatment