What are varicose veins?
A widely branching system of blood vessels transports our blood around our bodies. The blood vessels are Varicose veins (medical terms: varices, varicosis, or varicosity) are distended veins that appear as convoluted swellings that sometimes protrude as knot-like bulges on the surface of the skin.
What happens if varicose veins are left untreated?
In contrast, the venous system‘s task is to transport the deoxygenated blood from the body back to the heart and from there onwards to the lungs.
If left untreated, severe varicosity (varicose veins) can cause grave risks to health. Chronic venous insufficiency leads to growing disorders of the blood circulation and causes:
- Skin changes
- Painful venous ulcers
- Open venous leg ulcers (ulcus cruris)
If the disease progresses further, the varicose veins may become inflamed and blood clots can form (thrombosis) that may ultimately lead to a pulmonary embolism.
How are varicose veins treated?
The blood from abdominal organs initially passes through the portal vein into the liver, where it is filtered.
While varicose veins are not completely preventable, if you improve your circulation and muscle tone, you can reduce your risk of developing varicose veins.
Medical compression stockings are the disease-modifying form of treatment for varicose veins. These stockings exert mechanical pressure on the veins, which reduces the venous diameter and allows the blood to flow more quickly. Thanks to the pressure gradient that reduces from the ankle upwards, the blood no longer pools in the legs.
You can most effectively prevent varicose veins and other venous diseases by consistently wearing medical compression garments with mild compression (e.g., compression class 1).
This investment in your health is long-lasting, particularly since compression garments last at least six months if they are maintained properly. Your doctor can also prescribe medical compression garments for you if they are medically necessary.
Wearing preventive compression stockings is recommended if …
- You have hereditary lax connective tissue. This is often the case if varicose veins and other venous diseases are found in your close relatives.
- You have a job that regularly involves long periods of sitting, standing or squatting. The joint and muscle pumps can only function 100% during movement and the veins are pumped empty by muscle activity.
- You suffer from chronic constipation. The pressure on the abdominal cavity increases, this puts an added burden on the veins.
- You regularly drink (a lot of) alcohol. Alcohol acts to widen the veins.
- You are pregnant or have just given birth, or you are taking the pill or a hormone preparation for menopause. Hormonal changes favor varicose veins.
- You have to sit or stand for long periods in special situations – for example, on long journeys (especially on airplanes) or when working at events. In these circumstances, even people with healthy veins are recommended to wear knee-high compression socks or stockings.
There are corrective treatment options that are usually conducted within a physician’s office setting with localized anesthetics. Most patients resume normal activities within days.