Varicose Veins

Ow.  My leg hurts.  I had surgery yesterday to fix my varicose veins.

I’ve had varicose veins for over 20 years.  Every fall I keep thinking “This winter I’ll get my varicose veins fixed.”  And then every spring I think “I guess next winter I’ll get my varicose veins fixed.”

Well this year is THE year.

So therefore, my leg hurts.  Yesterday I had the first part of a two-part procedure to fix my varicose veins.  The plan is to have Part Two in 2 weeks and have my leg all healed up by summertime.

Why do we care about varicose veins?  What’s the big deal?  So my legs are lumpy-looking.  So what?

Turns out varicose veins can actually be a medical problem and not just cosmetic.  In my case, they make my leg swell and get sore and tired very easily.  If left alone for long enough, they can cause a skin condition called venous stasis dermatitis.

Stasis dermatitis happens when the veins are not functioning properly.


Many things cause the valves inside the veins to not work properly.  Gravity.  High estrogen levels from pregnancy.  Obesity.  Blood clots.  Connective tissue problems.  Heredity.  Whatever the reason, varicose veins have abnormal valves that allow blood to flow backwards.

The blood going in the wrong way makes the leg swell.  The blood cells are forced out by the pressure into the tissues and stain the skin with rust from the iron in the hemoglobin.  The skin can break down and any wounds are very difficult to heal.

As you can imagine, these problems are much more serious than the unattractive appearance of ropy, bulging veins.  And varicose veins tend to get worse as we age.

So what should you do if you want to avoid the problems of varicose veins and venous insufficiency?

Prevention is very helpful.  If you tend to be on your feet a lot for work, wear support stockings.  The moderate-compression stockings sold over the counter are helpful but keep in mind they need to be replaced regularly.  One key is, if you don’t have to work hard to get them on, they’re probably not tight enough.  And once they become easier to get into, they need replaced.

If you start to see ropy veins or spider veins, consider seeing your doctor for prescription stockings.  Any doctor can order them, but they need to be ordered from a pharmacy that carries home-health supplies.  You will need to be measured at the pharmacy to make sure your stockings fit you properly.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions for taking care of your stockings.  For instance, do NOT wash them in fabric softener.  This will soften and stretch the fibers and make your stockings stretch out more quickly.

If you start to see the big, ropy veins, your legs swell or your legs feel tired and sore after being on your feet for extended periods, see your doctor.  It may be that surgical treatment to close off and remove the veins that aren’t working properly will help the circulation in your legs.

Varicose veins aren’t serious like a heart attack or cancer, but they can certainly impact your health and affect your quality of life.  Take steps to prevent them, and if they develop, get them checked by your doctor.

QUESTION: Do you have varicose veins?  What are you doing to take care of them?