Varicose veins affect millions of people in the UK, often causing severe pain and can lead to blood flow issues resulting in dangerous blood clots.
Around 20-25 percent of women and 10-15 percent of men over the age of 15 years are impacted by the condition, which leave many self-conscious about their appearance.
Varicose veins are enlarged, bumpy and twisted veins which can occur anywhere in the body, but typically appear in the legs.
Some people are genetically predisposed to develop them, but there are ways to reduce your risk.
The key to stopping their spread is spotting the early signs.
Early signs of varicose veins
Before you developed fully formed varicose veins, there may be some early warning signs, according to the NHS :
- Aching, heavy and uncomfortable legs
- Swollen feet and ankles
- Burning or throbbing in your legs
- Muscle cramp in your legs, particularly at night
- Dry, itchy and thin skin over veins
Symptoms are commonly worse in the summer as your blood vessels relax, but you may find resting your legs eases pain.
What causes varicose veins?
They are typically caused by weak vein walls and valves. If your valves do not work properly and veins are stretched beyond their elasticity, blood collects and veins become enlarged.
You are at increased risk of developing varicose veins if:
- You are a female – women tend to have hormones that relax vein walls more
- Have a close family member with varicose veins
- You are elderly – vein elasticity reduces with age
- You are overweight – extra pressure causes vein leakage
- Have a job that involves long periods of standing
- Are pregnant – increased blood flow to support the baby puts pressure on veins
When to see a GP with varicose veins?
If you have varicose veins and they do not cause you pain or discomfort, you probably do not need to see a GP.
Instead, increase your activity levels, eat healthily and lose excess weight, to maximize your ability to reduce inflammation.
However, if the veins become painful, the skin over them is sore and aching in your legs causes irritation at night during your sleep, contact your doctor.