Do Not Ignore Varicose Veins

Mar 06, 2024

Varicose Veins

When veins that are close to the skin’s surface become enlarged and bulge out, they are known as varicose veins. While they can appear anywhere on the body, they are most common in the legs. This is because long hours of standing and walking increase the pressure on the veins of the lower part of the body.

Spider veins are tiny veins that look like a spider’s web and are visible under the skin. They are another form of varicose veins. For many people, varicose veins are merely a cosmetic issue and have no symptoms. However, for others, they cause pain (often severe) and discomfort. Because this can affect mobility and alter a person’s lifestyle, the ailment should not be ignored. In other cases, varicose veins can lead to other more serious health issues.

Causes of Varicose Veins

Arteries supply the body with fresh oxygenated blood. The deoxygenated bood from the body is then carried through the veins back to the lungs for re-oxygenation and then to the heart to continue the pumping cycle. When the blood is returning from the lower part of the body, the veins must work against gravity. Muscles in the legs and other parts of the body tighten around the veins to push the blood up. The veins have small valves that prevent the backflow of blood. If these valves do not work properly, blood may flow back and collect in the veins, causing them to enlarge, twist and stretch.

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Among the factors that influence the development of varicose veins are the following:

  • Family History – If others in the family suffer from varicose veins, the possibility of your being affected increases.
  • Obesity Being overweight places more stress on the legs and increases the possibility of the condition developing.
  • Age – With advancing years, the valves in the veins become weak and less effective in controlling blood flow.
  • Gender – Women are more prone to the condition. Among the reasons are hormonal changes during pregnancy or menopause both of which weaken the walls of the veins. Any kind of hormonal treatment can also contribute to the problem.
  • Extended Periods of Standing or Sitting – Body movement helps in blood flow. When the body, or the limbs, are inactive for a long time, blood could pool in the veins.

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins may not cause any physical symptoms, other than being visible under the skin. This too could be affected by skin colour which could make the bulging veins hard to see. The most common symptoms of the condition are:

  • Veins that are purple or dark blue in colour.
  • Veins that appear to be bulging or twisted.
  • A heavy feeling in one or both legs.
  • Leg pain that increases after standing or sitting for a long time.
  • Itching near the veins.
  • Changes in the skin colour near the affected veins.

Potential Complications

While complications arising from varicose veins are not common, they can develop and may include the following:

  • Swelling – Part of the leg or the whole leg may become swollen.
  • Ulcers – Ulcers, often very painful, can develop on the skin near the affected veins. These are especially common near the ankles where the blood can pool. A discolored spot on the skin is often the first sign of ulcer formation.
  • Blood Clots – Because of circulation problems, blood clots may develop. These can cause severe swelling and pain. In such cases, medical help should be sought without delay.
  • Bleeding – In rare cases, the veins under the skin surface could burst, leading to bleeding. This bleeding, although limited and not excessive, should not be ignored and medical help sought.

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Varicose veins diagnosis is primarily based on physical examination. The patient’s medical history and family history will be recorded. The patient’s description of the pain will also be taken into account. In some cases, a procedure called a venous Doppler ultrasound may be used. This is a painless, noninvasive test that uses sound waves to look at the blood flow through the veins.

Treatment for Varicose Veins

Various treatment protocols may be applied. These include:

  • Exercises to strengthen the muscles of the affected area so that the blood flow through the veins improves.
  • If, as is most common, the problem is in the legs, compression stockings can be used. These squeeze the legs, helping the muscles and veins move the blood. It is best to get a doctor’s advice regarding the use of the stockings.
  • Laser treatment sends strong bursts of high-intensity light to the veins and the heat from the laser is used for reducing varicose veins.
  • Catheter-based laser treatment is used for large veins. In this procedure, a thin tube called a catheter is inserted into the enlarged vein. Laser energy is passed through the tube to heat the vein and cause it to collapse and close.
  • Sclerotherapy is where a special foam is injected into the affected vein which stops the blood flow and causes the vein to close. With time, the visibility of the vein fades away.
  • Vein stripping is a procedure where the varicose vein is tied off before it joins a larger vein. It is then removed through small incisions in the skin. It is typically an outpatient procedure.

Preventing Varicose Veins

The following self-care actions can help in preventing the onset of varicose veins:

  • Exercise regularly and adequately.
  • Control your weight.
  • Reduce the amount of salt in your diet.
  • Avoid footwear with high heels.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothes that restrict blood flow.
  • When resting, keep your legs elevated to increase blood flow.
  • Do not sit or stand without moving for long periods of time.

If you have varicose veins, there is no need to worry, but at the same time, the condition should not be ignored. Even if there is no pain (or other tangible symptoms), consult a doctor to have an examination done. This is best done at a multispecialty hospital where other medical specialties will be available to diagnose and treat any other underlying or associated conditions that may be part of the varicose vein problem. This is the right way to ensure that comprehensive treatment is obtained to deal with the condition comprehensively.

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