Statistically, men are more reluctant than women to seek medical attention when faced with what they think is a minor health issue. Many men believe varicose veins are a simple cosmetic problem, and not a serious health risk. But chronic venous disease and other vein-related health issues should not be taken lightly or ignored. If left untreated, they can cause life-threatening health complications.
Not Just Grandma’s Problem
Varicose veins occur when blood pools in the veins in the lower extremities, causing them to stretch out. Over time, the veins stop returning to their normal size, leaving a swollen and bumpy appearance visible through the skin. Over time, the veins can become so swollen that valves restricting blood flow no longer meet to close completely, and blood is allowed to reflux through them in the wrong direction.
While varicose veins are more common in seniors, due to the loss of tissue and muscle mass and weakening of venous walls that naturally occurs with age, they can strike at any age, and are very common in men. In fact, approximately 45 percent of men will have varicose veins at some point in their life.
The likelihood of developing varicose veins is higher if one has a family history of vein-related health issues. Standing for long periods during the day and sitting for too long also increases the risk of varicose veins. Symptoms of chronic venous disease include heaviness, pain, cramps, and swelling in the legs, and can be a major hindrance to daily activities.
Health Risks of Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are often the first sign of a serious, progressive condition called venous disease. Varicose veins can progress to cause swelling in the legs and hyperpigmentation (skin darkening) in the ankle area, caused by blood pooling in the veins. When this occurs, it is not unusual to develop painful, debilitating ulcers in the skin above the ankles on the inside of the leg.
Varicose veins also put you at risk for blood clots, ulcers, and other painful and dangerous conditions. When blood pools in the legs as a result of varicose veins, it can easily develop into phlebitis, a superficial but painful blood clot that is not usually life threatening. However, if left untreated, phlebitis can worsen and grow into deep veins, where pieces of the clot may break off and move through the blood stream. Traveling bits of blood clots may become lodged in the lungs and cause a life-threatening blockage called a pulmonary embolism.
While a greater percentage of women get varicose veins than men, men often develop more severe cases. This is largely because men frequently ignore the signs of vein problems until they experience significant discomfort, while women are more likely to seek treatment before dangerous complications have a chance to arise.
Treatment Options for Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are usually easy to treat, especially if caught early.
For minor cases, wearing compression socks is often enough to keep blood from pooling in the veins and keep it moving back to the heart. Physical activity should be performed regularly to improve blood flow, and it may be necessary to reduce the sodium in your diet to prevent a relapse. Men who have started noticing signs of varicose veins should consult a doctor right away while treatment is still as simple as switching to a different type of socks.
In more severe cases of varicose veins, it may be necessary to have veins treated with lasers in a process called laser ablation. In this quick outpatient procedure, energy is applied through a laser fiber inserted into the vein to collapse and seal it shut, which causes blood to be diverted into healthy veins nearby instead. The procedure is generally painless and takes about thirty minutes. Afterward you can return to work and resume normal activities almost immediately.
If you suspect you may have varicose veins or venous disease, contact Texas Endovascular today to schedule an appointment. For men, it is important not to wait until your varicose veins progress to a more serious, potentially life-threatening condition.