If you’ve noticed any discoloration, swelling, or bulging veins in your legs, you might have a varicose vein. Varicose veins are an incredibly common issue that affects 30 million people in the United States. Though many men think they are unlike to get varicose veins, the reality is that this condition affects all genders. This guide will answer all the frequently asked questions about varicose veins in men, so you can understand the condition and explore your treatment options.
Are varicose veins usually a female problem?
There is a common misconception that varicose veins are mainly a female problem. Since varicose veins are more common with age and women live longer than men, varicose vein facts do show that more varicose vein sufferers are women. However, the rate at which men and women get varicose veins is actually extremely similar. Several studies have examined the percentage of men and women with varicose veins and found the rates are quite close. A study of thousands of subjects throughout Edinburgh discovered that 32 percent of women had varicose veins, while 39 percent of men in the same age group had the condition.
What do varicose veins in men look like?
Just having visible veins does not necessarily mean you have varicose veins. Especially when you are warm or are exercising, it is common for leg veins to look a little more prominent. However, varicose veins are a little different. Instead of just being a faint line of light blue beneath the skin, varicose veins will look dark purple or dark blue. The veins will often bulge out from the skin, and instead of looking like a faintly wavy line, they will twist and bulge. In addition to these visual signs, varicose veins will feel a little different. They may make your legs feel like they are aching, heavy, burning, or cramping. The area around the vein might swell or discolor, and the area can hurt or itch. These symptoms usually get worse if you sit or stand for a while.
What causes male varicose veins?
Varicose veins are essentially a structural problem. There are tiny valves inside of your veins that ensure all your blood flows towards your heart. However, if the valves get damaged, blood can pool or flow backwards. All the lingering blood gradually stretches out the walls of the veins, leading to the distorted look. There are all sorts of things that can cause veins to get damaged in the first place. Some potential causes of varicose veins in men include:
- Sitting or standing for long periods of time
- Lengthy amounts of inactivity
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a family history of varicose veins
- Being older
- Having certain hormonal abnormalities
- Wearing shoes with an elevated heel
Are male varicose veins just a cosmetic problem?
Another common myth about varicose veins is that they are just a cosmetic issue. Men who have varicose veins tend to shrug, say “well I don’t care too much about my legs’ appearance,” and carry on. However, ignoring the problem is actually a bad idea. Varicose veins are more than just an unsightly blemish. A varicose vein is a sign that your veins aren’t actually working. If you have varicose veins, it means blood is not properly flowing from your legs to your heart. Instead, the blood pools in your legs, which leads to pain, itchiness, and swelling. In some cases, untreated varicose veins can even lead to further medical complications.
Are varicose veins dangerous?
On a day to day basis, a varicose vein is usually just an unpleasant and uncomfortable feeling. However, having a vein will increase your risk for further problems. If the vein is close to the skin, the damaged section can burst, causing bleeding that will usually need medical attention to fix. Another issue is that varicose veins can turn into an ulcer. This is a large, painful sore that can get worse over time. A big problem is that varicose veins slow blood flow in the legs. When blood flow is slower, it is easier for a clot to form. This clot can stick around in the deep veins of the body, causing a deep vein thrombosis. It can also travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism.
Can lifestyle changes fix your varicose veins?
If your varicose veins are very mild, you might not need any intensive medical care. First of all, if you are overweight or obese, it is important to try to loose weight. Excess weight puts a lot of stress on veins and can weaken them further. It is also a good idea to move around more. Getting moving improves circulation and reduces blood pooling. Other things you can do to help include wearing looser clothing, elevating your legs when sitting, and taking frequent breaks from sitting or standing. These sorts of lifestyle changes cannot permanently reverse your varicose veins. However, they will reduce symptoms and can keep your condition from getting worse.
Do compression stockings fix varicose veins?
One of the most common treatments for varicose veins is compression stockings. These are specially made stocks that provide steady, even pressure along the lower legs. This encourages blood to flow properly instead of pooling in veins. Compression stockings are a very helpful tool in the early stages of varicose vein treatment. Though they are not a permanent solution, they can help you manage some of the symptoms. These stockings come with a lot of different shapes and compression levels, so you will need to work with a doctor to find the best ones for your situation.
Are there any ways to permanently get rid of varicose veins?
A vein becomes varicose when it is too damaged to work properly. Therefore, the only permanent solution is a treatment to remove or close up the damaged vein. This reroutes blood flow to other, healthy veins and gets rid of the look and feel of the varicose vein.
- Sclerotherapy: This treatment involves injecting a foam solution into the veins. The solution expands inside the veins until it closes them up entirely. The varicose veins then gradually fade over a few weeks.
- Laser therapy: Like sclerotherapy, this works by sealing off the damaged veins. Instead of a foam solution, laser therapy uses bursts of laser light to close the veins.
- Ambulatory phlebectomy: A phlebectomy entirely removes the damaged vein. A doctor will use tiny punctures to access the area. Though this is technically a surgery, it is an outpatient procedure that only requires partial anesthesia.
- Catheter assisted treatments: When the vein is deep in the leg, your doctor may need to insert a thin tube called a catheter into the vein. The catheter can be heated to high temperatures, which will make the varicose vein close up.
- Litigation and vein stripping: This surgery works well on deep varicose veins. The doctor uses a small incision to access the vein. They tie off the vein above and below the varicose section and then remove the vein.
- Endoscopic vein surgery: An endoscopy uses a small camera inserted into the leg. This gives the doctor a better visual for treating complex cases. During the surgery, your doctor will identify and close up all the problematic veins.
Do men’s vein treatments vary from women’s vein treatments?
A patients’ gender can affect the type of varicose vein treatment they need. This happens because one of the base causes for varicose veins may be hormones. Women who are pregnant or taking hormonal birth control have a higher risk for varicose veins, so in those cases, treatment can involve discussing treatments to balance progesterone levels. Men do not usually have high levels of these hormones, so hormonal treatment options are typically off the table for them. Instead of the “wait and see” approach, men are more likely to need a defined treatment plan. In cases where medical intervention is needed, varicose vein treatments for men and women are very similar. Treatments like sclerotherapy or phlebectomy work equally well on all genders.
Which varicose vein treatment is right for you?
The right treatment usually just depends on your situation and your treatment goals. Smaller varicose veins closer to the surface of the skin can usually be treated with options like sclerotherapy or laser therapy. Those who want fast results may do better with options like phlebectomy while people who are concerned about scarring might stick with laser treatments. If you have a deeper vein, you might need treatments that involve catheters or litigation. Meanwhile, in very severe cases where you have ulcers or other complications, more complex vein surgery might be needed. Ultimately, there are a lot of very helpful men’s vein treatment options to pick from.
If you suspect you have varicose veins, you need to seek care as soon as possible. At the Vein Institute of Pinellas, we provide dedicated treatment for varicose veins in men. Our team has years of experience and is fully up to date on all the latest varicose vein treatments. Call 727-240-2297 to schedule your free consultation today.