Varicose Veins: Symptoms, Treatment

Overview

Varicose veins refer to enlarged, swollen and twisted veins, often appearing blue or dark purple in color. They occur when faulty valves in the veins allow blood to flow in the wrong direction or to pool. Any superficial vein may become varicosed, but the veins most commonly affected are those in your legs. That’s because standing and walking upright increases the pressure in the veins of your lower body.

Varicose veins are a relatively common condition. In the United States, approximately 1 in 4 adults are affected by varicose veins. In other words, more than 23% of all adults are affected by the disorder. Women are more likely to develop the disease than men.

Causes

Weak or damaged valves can lead to varicose veins. Different from arteries that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your tissues, veins return blood from the rest of your body to your heart. Tiny valves in your veins open as blood flow toward your heart then close to stop blood from flowing backward. If these valves are weak or damaged, blood can flow backward and pool in the vein, causing the veins to stretch or twist.

These factors may increase your risk of getting affected by varicose veins:

  • Age

Aging may cause wear and tear on the valves in your veins, especially when aging over 50.

  • Gender

It is estimated that women are twice as likely to develop the disease as men.

  • Family history

If your family member has varicose veins, you are at greater risk.

  • Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the volume of blood in your body increases to support the growing fetus. But it can also cause enlarged veins in your legs. Hormonal changes during pregnancy may also play a role.

  • Being overweight

Obesity may put added pressure on your veins.

  • Certain occupations

Some jobs that require you to stand or sit for long periods of time may put more pressure on the veins in your legs and feet.

Symptoms

In some cases, varicose veins may not cause any pain. Signs that may come into notice include:

  • Veins that are dark purple or blue in color and visible on the thigh and calf
  • Veins that appear twisted and bulging

If pain occurs due to varicose veins, typical symptoms are:

  • Heaviness and achiness in your legs
  • Skin discoloration around a varicose vein
  • Itching around one or more of your veins
  • Soreness behind the knee
  • Skin ulcers
  • Burning, throbbing, muscle cramping and swelling in your lower legs
  • Worsened pain after sitting or standing for a long time

Diagnosis

Since varicose veins can cause visible dark purple or blue blood vessels, a physical exam is usually the first step to diagnose the condition. During the exam, your doctor will also check your legs and feet for signs of swelling.

Tests that can help with diagnosis include:

  • An ultrasound to see if the valves in your veins are functioning normally or if there’s any evidence of a blood clot
  • A venogram to further assess your veins by creating a clear X-ray image with a dye injecting to your legs

Treatment

Generally, varicose veins require only conservative treatment. Lifestyle changes are the most common suggestions from doctors. These options include:

  • Exercising regularly to improve your circulation
  • Losing weight
  • Avoiding standing or sitting for long periods of time
  • Using compression socks or stockings to place enough pressure on your legs so that blood can flow more easily to your heart

If varicose veins are large, they may need to be removed surgically. This is usually done under general anesthetic. In most cases, the patient can go home the same day. Other treatment options that may help reduce symptoms include:

  • Sclerotherapy

In this procedure, your doctor will inject small- and medium-sized varicose veins with a solution or foam that scars and closes those veins. In a few weeks, treated varicose veins should fade.

  • Laser treatment

Laser treatment works by sending strong bursts of light onto the vein, which makes the vein slowly fade and disappear.

  • High ligation and vein stripping

This procedure is done by tying off a vein before it joins a deep vein and removing the vein through small incisions.

  • Endovenous ablation therapy

This treatment uses heat and radiofrequency waves to block off a vein.

  • Endoscopic vein surgery

Your surgeon uses a thin video camera inserted in your leg to visualize and close varicose veins, and then he or she removes the veins through small incisions.

The options recommended can depend on your symptoms, size, and location of the varicose vein. Remember to talk to your doctor about specific methods and possible risks.


Keyword: varicose veins.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.