Why are varicose veins painful?
The discomfort associated with varicose veins is caused by a combination of factors. When veins are weak, the blood which is supposed to return to the heart in a timely fashion, settles and pools in the superficial vein system. This pooling of blood worsens when patients stand or sit in one place for a long period of time.
Why do varicose veins itch and cause swelling in legs?
When the blood settles in the legs it can cause swelling. Swelling itself can cause pain as it puts pressure on the skin; in turn, the skin can become tight, inflamed, and sometimes itches. If the legs are swollen for a prolonged period of time, this inflammation and swelling can put pressure on the nerves in the legs causing pain, numbness, burning, and tingling. Additionally, it alters the skins ability to sense appropriately which can lead to itching, skin integrity changes, and recurrent infection.
Varicose Veins and Leg Cramps
Finally, the congestion of blood from varicose veins can cause the muscles in the foot, calf, and thigh to cramp. These cramps can be very painful, oftentimes waking patients from sleep or causing restlessness which keeps them up at night.
Larger Varicose Vein implications
The biggest concern of varicose veins is the increased risk in developing a deep vein thrombosis. This is further compounded when considering other risk factors such as; genetic predisposition, comorbid conditions, hormonal shifts (menses, pregnancy, menopause), and heat (summer months). There are conservative varicose vein therapies which will help temporarily with symptom improvement, however, obtaining a complete venous evaluation from a qualified vein specialist will allow you to understand exactly where you are in the spectrum of vein disease and if you require treatment to alleviate long term implications.