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Varicose Veins: Causes, Symptoms, Surgery

What is Varicose Veins? Meaning, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Complications and Treatment of Varicose Veins...

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins is a condition in which veins become swollen, gnarled, and have a red or bluish-purple colour.

This condition is also known as varicosities or varicoses and occurs when the veins are overfilled with blood.

These veins are sometimes very painful. Any vein may become varicosities; however, the most commonly affected veins are those in your legs and feet.

varicose veins

Generally, women are affected by this condition, though nowadays the number of men affected by varicoses has also increased.

varicosities are very common, Typically in women. Nearby 25% of all adults have varicose veins. In most cases, varicoses develop on the lower legs.


How do varicose veins occur?

varicose veins

Our veins have one-way valves which prevent blood from flowing backwards.

When the walls of this vein become weak especially near a valve, the valve becomes leaky and starts malfunctions.

The blood then starts to flow backwards instead of towards the heart. Once this condition happens, it puts a lot of pressure on the vein that can cause the vein to widen and the occurrence of more leaky valves.

Varicose veins often affect the legs and feet. The veins there are the farthest from the heart, and gravity makes it harder for the blood to flow upward.


Causes of varicose veins

Some causes of varicose veins can be:

  • A family history of this disease (varicose veins)
  • Ageing
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Standing or sitting for the long periods at a stretch
  • Obesity

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Symptoms of varicose veins

The symptoms of varicose veins are:

  • Dark purple or blue coloured veins
  • Bulging, painful, or hardened veins
  • Twisted and bulging veins
  • A heavy feeling in the legs
  • Swelling in the lower legs and muscle cramping
  • Bleeding in your affected veins
  • Heightened pain after sitting or standing for a long time
  • Itching in the affected areas
  • Inflammation of the skin
  • Skin ulcers near the ankle (which can be a sign of vascular disease)

Who is at higher risk to varicose veins?

Following factors can make you prone to varicose veins include:

Increasing Age:

The risk of varicose veins increases with the ageing since with age the veins become weak and eventually wear and tear can occur, that may cause the valves to malfunction.

Gender:

Women are at higher risk to suffer from varicose veins. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, pre-menstruation or menopause are few factors that are responsible. Also, taking hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills can increase the risk of the varicose veins.

Family History:

If you have a family history of varicose veins, there is a higher chance you may inherit the condition.

Being Obese:

Extra weight can create more pressure on your veins and cause varicose veins.

Staying Put in the Same Position for the Long Periods:

Sitting or standing for the long periods at a stretch can affect the blood circulation and thus can cause varicose veins.


Diagnosis of varicose veins

Typically, a general physician or a primary care doctor can diagnose, treat, and monitor the varicose veins disease.

If your case is more severe, the general physician can refer you to a specialist called the vascular surgeon.

To diagnose the varicose veins, the doctor will first perform a physical exam.

He will examine for bulging veins as well as blood clots. He may also suggest you undergo an ultrasound to check if the veins functioning normally or to find any evidence of the blood clot.

Depending on the location, the venogram can be done to further examine your veins.

During this test, the doctor injects a special dye into the legs and takes X-rays of the area. The dye appears on the X-rays, giving your doctor a better and proper view of how your blood is flowing.

Tests like ultrasounds or venograms help ensure that another disorder such as blood clot or a blockage isn’t causing the pain and swelling in your legs.


Complications of varicose veins

Complications of varicose veins are rare, and can include:

  • Ulcers which can form on the skin near the varicose veins, particularly near your ankles.
  • Blood clots, that is a medical condition known as thrombophlebiti.
  • Bleeding that can occur when the enlarged veins very close to the skin may burst. This condition requires immediate medical attention.

Treatment for varicose veins

There are many types of treatment options available such as:

Medical Treatment

The doctor may ask you at first to wear compression stockings that are the immediate treatment for varicose veins.

The stockings will squeeze the legs, thus squeezing the veins to let the blood flow easily towards the heart.

However, if compression stockings do not work you may have to undergo minimally invasive procedures like:

  • Laser surgeries for the varicose veins
  • Sclerotherapy
  • Catheter-assisted procedures using radiofrequency or the laser energy
  • High ligation and vein stripping
  • Endoscopic vein surgery in severe cases

Exercise

Certain exercises can be extremely beneficial for varicose veins like walking, running, jogging, swimming, yoga, and Pilates.

Please consult the doctor before you decide on any exercise regimen to check if it will be best suitable for your condition.

Surgery

If lifestyle changes and other treatment aren’t working, or if the varicose veins are causing a lot of pain or damaging a patient’s overall health, the doctor might try an invasive procedure.

Vein ligation and stripping is the surgical treatment which requires anaesthesia. During this procedure, the surgeon makes cuts in the skin, cuts the varicose vein, and removes it by incisions.

Although updated variations of the latest vein-stripping surgeries have been developed, they are less commonly performed as newer, less invasive options are available.

Lifestyle changes

The following changes can help prevent varicose veins from converting to worse:

  • Avoid standing for the extended periods of time.
  • Lose weight and maintain a healthy body.
  • Exercise to improve circulation.
  • Use compression stockings.

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