You might think that varicose veins are something you only need to worry about when you’re old and grey, but the truth is that plenty of people develop varicose veins before 30. Some people are genetically predisposed to varicose veins and there are a number of other factors that can increase the likelihood of you developing varicose veins earlier in life.
These bulging veins can be unsightly and cause embarrassment for some people. If they worsen with time they can create significant medical problems in later life. Signs and symptoms of varicose veins can include:
• A feeling of heaviness in the legs
• Pain in the legs
• Tired, aching legs
• Swollen legs
• Itchiness in the skin over the vein (especially in the ankles)
• Venous ulcers on the legs.
Symptoms of varicose veins are often worse after a long day of standing and can often be relieved by putting your feet up and resting. Venous ulcers may develop where varicose veins remain untreated for a long period of time. These ulcers can be difficult to treat and may become infected, causing severe pain and disability for older people.
What causes varicose veins?
The root cause of varicose veins is the dysfunction of valves in the veins. This allows blood to pool in the veins, typically in the legs, which can lead to bulging and distension of the vein. Over time, the walls of the veins weaken and the problem worsens, leading to visible bulging and the possibility of damage to the skin on the lower part of the leg.
Who gets varicose veins before 30?
Pregnancy is the main cause of varicose veins before 30, but there is also an inherited (genetic) component to varicose veins and other factors that increase the risk of this condition, such as:
• Lifting heavy weights
• Being overweight or obese
• Working as a manual labourer
• Working as an airline steward.
People working in retail or any occupation requiring prolonged periods of standing are also more likely to develop varicose veins because they often spend hours on their feet every day and spend time squatting and lifting heavy objects, which places extra strain on the veins in the legs. For similar reasons, varicose veins are also common among construction workers and weightlifters.
Pregnancy increases the likelihood of varicose veins because of the increase in blood volume and body weight during pregnancy and hormonal changes that relax blood vessels. For many women, varicose veins that arise in pregnancy tend to resolve within a year of giving birth, but in subsequent pregnancies the veins come back more severely than the first time and often do not completely resolve. Modern surgical techniques such as EVLT laser treatment can prevent this from happening.
Should I be worried about my varicose veins?
For many people, varicose veins can be a cause of embarrassment, preventing them from wearing the clothes they want to wear or from participating in certain activities, such as swimming. Varicose veins can also be itchy, irritating and cause tiredness and heaviness in the legs, which could prevent a person from exercising and socialising.
While younger patients are often motivated to have varicose vein treatment for aesthetic reasons, it’s also important to note that there are a number of medical reasons for addressing varicose veins early, particularly if there are signs of skin damage such as darkening of the skin in the ankle area or an itchy irritation in the lower leg.
How to reduce your risk of varicose veins
While there’s not much you can do about your genes, there are ways you can lower your risk of varicose veins. These include:
• Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight
• Getting regular exercise, such as walking, swimming, and cycling
• Avoiding frequent heavy lifting or exercises such as squats
• Staying hydrated and eating healthily
• Avoiding sitting or standing still for long periods of time
• Putting your feet up after a long day of standing
• Massaging your legs in long upward strokes toward the heart
• Doing ankle pumps, especially on long flights
• Wearing compression stockings.
Staying active helps to encourage healthy venous return by engaging the muscles in the lower leg. This reduces the risk of blood pooling and distending the vein. Try doing a set of 10 ankle pumps every half hour or so if you are forced to sit for a long period of time: raise your toes towards your shins and then point your toes down to the ground and repeat.
Massage can also help soothe aching, heavy legs, while compression stockings can help prevent that feeling in the first place. These stockings are designed to provide a consistent, gentle pressure to squeeze blood upwards and prevent pooling in the lower legs.
Natural remedies for varicose veins
A wide variety of natural remedies have been proposed to help with varicose veins, including garlic, red wine, red vine leaf, and white willow. In almost all cases there is a complete absence of scientifically credible evidence to support the claims for varicose vein benefits. Some natural remedies for varicose veins may, however, contain substances that could be beneficial, such as antioxidants, astringent compounds, and anti-inflammatory components.
If you are considering using natural remedies, be sure to talk to your physician or surgeon first as some can pose problems. White willow and fish oil may thin the blood, for example, and increase the risk of problematic bleeding and bruising. Be sure to let your surgical team know of any supplements you are using prior to undergoing any procedures.
Treating varicose veins
Compression stockings and lifestyle changes are standard ways to manage varicose vein symptoms and can help minimise progression of varicose veins. These things do not cure varicose veins, however, and we’re fortunate to now have a number of quick and painless treatment options to address unsightly and painful varicose veins.
The traditional high tie and strip procedure that has been standard practice in the National Health Service for decades is no longer considered a good option for treating varicose veins, especially for younger patients. This is because the procedure has to be carried out under general anaesthetic, is painful, requires numerous incisions down the leg, has a long recovery time, and poses a much higher risk of deep vein thrombosis and recurrence of varicose veins.
For most people with varicose veins under 30, modern varicose vein treatments are significantly less invasive and require little if any downtime. Laser treatment for varicose veins is highly effective and can be carried out as an outpatient procedure, allowing patients to return to normal activities almost right away. Injection therapy is another simple surgical option to block a troublesome vein, with Clarivein as a painless option ideal for younger patients who need to get back to busy lives quickly.
The risk of common complications such as recurrence of varicose veins, nerve injury, and deep vein thrombosis is also much lower with modern procedures such as endovenous laser therapy. EVLT has around a 98% success rate and the rate of recurrence is very low, making it the surgical procedure of choice for people with varicose veins under 30.