Fact or Fiction? The Varicose Vein Myths You Shouldn’t Believe

Nobody wants them, but about 60 percent of the American population has them — varicose veins. The purple and occasionally bulging lines on your legs and ankles are a result of the vein disease venous insufficiency. Veins become dilated and twist making it difficult to stand, walk, work or enjoy your favorite activities.

“Your legs contain a network of veins responsible for carrying blood back to your heart,” says Dr. Fastabend, founder and medical director of the Vein Center of Southwest Louisiana, an affiliate of Imperial Health. “Vein disease develops when the valves that keep blood flowing from the legs back to the heart become damaged or diseased, leading to a progression of symptoms.”

How do you know if you have varicose veins? Depending on the individual person, symptoms may vary from intense soreness to no pain at all. Common signs include leg pain or aching, heaviness in legs, itching around veins and leg swelling. If left untreated, varicose veins can become a serious medical issue and may cause blood clots, skin pigment changes, bleeding and skin ulcerations.

So what causes varicose veins in the first place? Many people think they know, but there are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation about this vascular condition.

To help you learn the facts, Dr. Fastabend addresses some common myths about varicose veins and treatment:

Myth: Varicose veins are only a cosmetic issue.
Fact: Many people think varicose veins are only a cosmetic issue, when oftentimes they can be much more than that. While the varicose veins you notice are right at the surface of the skin, they occur deeper in the body, too. Varicose veins can lead to headaches, heaviness, throbbing, cramping, swelling of legs, severe dryness and itchiness of the skin. People with varicose veins are also at an increased risk for a dangerous type of blood clot known as deep vein thrombosis. Get to the root cause of your varicose veins, it’s not just about the aesthetics.

Myth: Varicose veins are strictly a women’s issue.
Fact: While varicose veins are more common in women, men get them too. Nearly 50 percent of men have visible varicose veins, but they don’t often seek treatment. Men should be just as vigilant when it comes to taking care of their circulatory systems.

Myth: Varicose veins are an inevitable part of aging.
Fact: Age has little to do with varicose veins. The cause of varicose veins is primarily genetic. While aging worsens them, young people can get them too. In fact, symptoms of vein disease can appear as early as in your 20s.

Myth: Running can cause varicose veins.
Fact: Exercise, including running, is a good thing for your veins! Exercise is always good for circulation. Being more physically active and maintaining a healthy weight can improve and potentially prevent varicose veins. For individuals with varicose veins already, compression stockings can help prevent blood from pooling in your lower legs during exercise.

Myth: Recovery after varicose vein treatment is difficult.
Fact: Newer treatments and procedures can be performed in the office within 20 minutes with no down time. Patients can usually return to work and resume daily activities the same day.

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