woman's legs by swimming pool
Photo: Gold Chain Collective/Unsplash

Summer means shorts season, which can cause anxiety if you chronically skip leg day, or if you suffer from varicose veins. Up to 40 percent of Americans have them, and they can be uncomfortable as well as unsightly. But you don't have to resign yourself to living with them if they bother you. What are varicose veins, anyway, and can varicose veins be prevented? We break it all down.

What are varicose veins?

So, what are varicose veins? Varicose veins are bulging, twisted veins with a blue or purple appearance. Our veins are like one-way streets: They contain valves that keep blood flowing through them in one direction. Varicose veins happen when those valves weaken, allowing blood to back up or to pool. That results in varicose veins' lumpy, gnarled, discolored look. The lack of circulation means the veins can be painful, make legs feel heavy or cause a burning or throbbing sensation.

Spider veins are thinner, cobweb-like veins caused by the same issues. Hemorrhoids are a type of varicose vein.

Can varicose veins be prevented?

So, can varicose veins be prevented? Yes and no. Varicose veins are largely caused by genetics. Age, obesity and pregnancy can also contribute to their appearance.

 

There are things you can do to prevent varicose veins from getting worse. A doctor might suggest exercising, losing weight, wearing compression stockings or avoiding standing for long periods of time. Wearing loose-fitting clothing and massage also can be helpful.

You can also reduce the amount of sodium and salty foods in your diet; they make the body retain water, which can make veins feel worse.

How can varicose veins be treated?

Vein specialists can treat varicose veins with lasers, sclerotherapy (injecting the veins with chemicals to cause them to scar up and dissolve), or in more severe cases, removing them via minor surgery (called phlebectomy). You might see advertisements for vein clinics or beauty spas offering varicose vein treatments, but it's always best to talk with your primary care doctor first if varicose veins are troubling you.

Interested in getting treatment? Here are some of the names of varicose vein doctors in New York you should know as well as information about their clinics.

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