Jan 12, 2021 1:30 PM

Author: Kaitlyn Hickman


Varicose veins can appear as we get older, seem unsightly, and also be quite painful. If you experience varicose veins that are uncomfortable and interrupting your everyday life, it may be time to consult your doctor. Although varicose veins are not dangerous, several treatment options might improve your quality of life.

What are varicose veins and what causes them?

Not everyone has or will get varicose veins, so it is important to understand what they are and how they come about. Let’s start with the basics: what are veins?

Veins “are soft-walled vessels,” says Dee Jost, family nurse practitioner at University of Utah Health. “Their job is to get the blood from your foot back toward your heart through a series of tiny one-way valves that open and shut when your heart muscles or your calf muscles contract, sending blood uphill through these soft-walled vessels. When the vein stretches, the valves don’t grow anymore, and that backward flow of blood can stretch out the vein over the course of the day, causing it to itch or feel heavy or ache. These are varicose veins. They can become large and twisted in appearance under the skin.”

There are quite a few assumptions made about what causes varicose veins. Some people worry that crossing their legs too much or sitting for long periods of time will cause them, but those aren’t necessarily true assumptions. So what behaviors if any put you at risk the most?

“It’s usually not a lifestyle choice,” Jost says. “There’s a very high correlation with family (history). Perhaps your mom had varicose veins, so then you inherited a valve that doesn’t work right in one of your veins and the next vein downstream from that now works twice as hard. With the wear and tear of gravity and perhaps pregnancies, these veins sometimes quit being functional.”

Along with your genetics, pregnancy and obesity are other common risk factors for developing varicose veins.

Are varicose veins dangerous?

The good news is that varicose veins are never dangerous. They will not damage your leg or joints and rarely cause a dangerous clot. However, they can be quite uncomfortable—sometimes feeling incredibly hot, burning, or itching. That is the main reason people come in to treat them. Varicose veins can also prevent people from exercising regularly at times.

What are the treatment options?

Luckily, there are some effective treatment options available if varicose veins are affecting your everyday life. Treatment options include Endovenous Laser Ablation Treatment (EVLT), litigation and stripping surgery, and microphlebectomy procedures. These are outpatient procedures performed in the OR. The treatment option will be determined by client preference, vein anatomy and size, and potential insurance regulations.

You can explore your treatment options at our main University Hospital,  South Jordan Health Center Vein Clinic, or our Farmington Health Center Vein Clinic. Set up an appointment for any of our locations by calling 801-581-3495. Your initial visit will include a non-invasive venous mapping performed using an ultrasound, as well as a family history and physical evaluation.

Once you have been seen by one of our clinicians, most insurances require that you go through the trial of conservative measures before treatment, which includes elevating your legs for at least 10 minutes a few times per day, over-the-counter pain medications, and wearing medical-grade compression stockings. From there, you’ll have a follow-up visit to review your treatment options, risks, benefits, and expected recovery time.


Kaitlyn Hickman

Marketing and Communications

heart health vascular disease aesthetics varicose veins

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