Varicose Veins

Varicose veins… huh? The veins your mom and grandma are always talking about? Yes, THOSE. Most women get them (50-55%,) and it’s usually hereditary… thanks Grandma, I happen to be victim to the bloody things (no pun intended, you’ll learn why below,) and I’m still young to have had them as bad I did, “varicose veins affect half of people 50 years and older.” (source)

Back in mid-2011, I went to my first vascular doctor because the varicose veins on the back of my legs, my right leg especially, were protruding and it was quite the eye sore (or at least I thought so.) At first glance, Dr. said,  “jeees beautiful, you’re so young!” Tell me about it Doc!

Define Varicose Veins: Varicose (VAR-i-kos) veins are enlarged veins that can be blue, red, or flesh colored. They often look like cords and appear twisted and bulging. They can be swollen and raised above the surface of the skin. Varicose veins are often found on the thighs, backs of the calves, or the inside of the leg. Can be caused by weak or damaged valves in the veins.

The heart pumps blood filled with oxygen and nutrients to the whole body through the arteries. Veins then carry the blood from the body back to the heart. As your leg muscles squeeze, they push blood back to the heart from your lower body against the flow of gravity.

Veins have valves that act as one-way flaps to prevent blood from flowing backwards as it moves up your legs. If the valves become weak, blood can leak back into the veins and collect there. (This problem is called venous insufficiency.) When backed-up blood makes the veins bigger, they can become varicose.

Here’s the back of my right leg…October 2011. I also had on my left leg but not as bad.

Let me preface: For about 4 years, I working in catering. For those who don’t know… when you work at a venue (not a staffing company,) you’re usually on for every event at the venue as long as you’re good, reliable and available…and it can’t go without saying that the money is good too.

Think: Friday 5PM-1AM, Saturday (doubles,) 9AM- 1AM, Sunday 11AM- 6PM; 29 hours on your feet, almost every weekend?

Yeah, that’ll kick start blood circulation problems any day.

Four years flew by, worked through pairs and pairs of cheap Payless Velcro shoes, and even after leaving, I worked in retail, which most know is on your feet all day too. Didn’t help that through those years, I was gaining weight at a ridiculous rate, eating A LOT at the catering job, and not exercising= horrible.

Long story short, while insurance considers it cosmetic, and yea maybe it was because I’m still young(er) than most women who have them removed, I opted to …have them removed. Women usually wait until after childbirth, because that’s when they expect to get them/when they get worse…but I could not imagine what my legs may have looked like so far in the future. Besides, I consider my legs one of my best assets!

3 months of ultrasounds, “check ups,” claiming “pain and irritation,” for insurance to cover the surgery and I finally got the A OK. In early November I went under the knife.

Fine, it wasn’t THAT big a deal, but it was more a deal than I was anticipating… they prepped me for “surgery” (above,) gave me a local anesthesia (which I felt completely drunk on coming out of,) I had stitches in an uncomfortable location, and my leg was bound up pretty tight for up to a week after. These procedures are scheduled for weekends, so you take off Friday and Monday, do the surgery Friday, heal Sat/Sun, and do a follow up appointment Monday.

The Procedure: Surgical ligation and stripping.

With this treatment, problem veins are tied shut and completely removed from the leg through small cuts in the skin. Removing the veins does not affect the circulation of blood in the leg. Veins deeper in the leg take care of the larger volumes of blood. This surgery requires general anesthesia and must be done in an operating room. It takes between one and four weeks to recover from the surgery.

Words of advice:

– stay off your feet that Sat/Sun
– don’t be concerned when you still see bruising months after
– try not to be shcieved by the little holes all over the area they pulled the vein from
– do follow up with doc if you see any bruising anywhere else that seems strange
– don’t do this procedure unless you really need to… if it’s hereditary, or if it really bothers you cosmetically, otherwise, the healing process is really quite uncomfortable

Prevention?  Per, not all varicose veins can be prevented. But, there are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting new varicose and spider veins. These same things can help ease discomfort from the ones you already have:

• Wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun and to limit spider veins on the face.
• Exercise regularly to improve your leg strength, circulation, and vein strength. Focus on exercises that work your legs, such as walking or running.
• Control your weight to avoid placing too much pressure on your legs.
• Don’t cross your legs for long times when sitting. It’s possible to injure your legs that way, and even a minor injury can increase the risk of varicose veins.
• Elevate your legs when resting as much as possible.
• Don’t stand or sit for long periods of time. If you must stand for a long time, shift your weight from one leg to the other every few minutes. If you must sit for long periods of  time, stand up and move around or take a short walk every 30 minutes.
• Wear elastic support stockings and avoid tight clothing that constricts your waist, groin, or legs.
• Avoid wearing high heels for long periods of time. Lower-heeled shoes can help tone your calf muscles to help blood move through your veins.
• Eat a low-salt diet rich in highfiber foods. Eating fiber reduces the chances of constipation, which can contribute to varicose veins. Highfiber foods include fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, like bran. Eating less salt can help with the swelling that comes with varicose veins.

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