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Varicose Veins and Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Varicose Veins and Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

There are many misconceptions when it comes to varicose veins (both what causes them and how they are treated). Varicose veins are extremely common (1 in 4 people have them). There is nothing that you did to cause them. They tend to run in families (if your mom or dad had them), are more common in women and more common in women with children. Fortunately there are many simple and effective ways to treat them. 

It’s all a matter of plumbing and gravity. The heart pumps blood, the arteries take blood from the heart to the body and veins bring blood back to the heart from the body. To take a drop of blood from the toes to the heart the veins have to work against gravity. And just like elevators have floors veins have valves. Valves are one-way trap doors that shut inside your veins and keep the blood moving in an upward direction. When these valves stop working the blood goes down the vein, rather then up, and pressure builds up in the veins and they swell causing varicose veins. 

The range of symptoms can vary from unsightly veins, to pain, itching, aching, cramps, fatigue, skin changes around the ankles, and even skin ulcers. Many people think that varicose veins are simply a cosmetic issue. But they are a very common medical condition that can cause pain, discomfort, damage to your skin and can even lead to ulcers, infections and bleeding veins. For this reason medical insurance often will cover the treatment of varicose veins. 

Varicose veins during pregnancy are extremely common and can effect 1 out of 2 women. The reason varicose veins become more prominent during pregnancy is due to: 

1. A significant increase in blood and fluid in your body during pregnancy. 

2. Growth of the uterus pressing on veins in the pelvis which leads to a build up of blood in the legs.

3. Increasing hormone levels.

The severity and degree of varicose veins typically progresses with subsequent pregnancies (3rd worst then 2nd worst then 1st etc). 

In the past treatment was invasive and involved surgery with anesthesia or multiple injections, which were painful. But the latest FDA approved treatments are incision less, nearly painless and take a few minutes. Downtime is minimal and you can resume work the same day.  

Do yourself a favor and get yourself in for an evaluation. Information is a powerful tool. Arm your self with knowledge and decide if treatment is right for you.

Written by:

Dr. Ali Golshan, MD, MBA, Board Certified Vascular & Interventional Radiologist