What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins refer to enlarged, swollen, and twisting veins that often appear on the legs or feet and typically have a bluish-purple or red color. They occur when the valves of the vein do not work properly making the veins enlarged, dilated, and overfilled with blood and are often painful.
Types of varicose veins include:
- Trunk varicose veins
- Reticular varicose veins
- Telangiectasia varicose veins
Varicose veins symptoms
In many cases, varicose veins are not painful. Signs and symptoms of varicose veins include:
- Swollen, bumpy or bulging, and twisted looking veins
- Veins that are blue or dark purple
In some cases, the condition may tend to be painful. Varicose veins symptoms in such cases may include:
- Aching legs
- Legs feeling heavy
- Longer than normal bleeding in case of minor injuries
- Swollen ankles
- Telangiectasia in the affected leg
- Shiny skin discoloration near the varicose veins, generally blue or brownish
- Venous eczema in the affected area
- Leg cramps on sudden leg movements
- Restless leg syndrome
Who is at risk?
Risk factors of varicose veins include:
- As a person ages, the risk of varicose veins increases
- Women are more like to develop them owing to hormonal changes and treatments
- A family history of varicose veins
- Sitting or standing for long periods
Varicose veins causes
Causes of varicose veins include improper functioning of the veins. The veins have one-way valves which makes sure the blood can travel only in one direction and prevents the blood from flowing back. On failure of these valves, the blood starts collecting in the veins instead of continuing towards the heart. This leads to the enlargement of the veins.
Other potential reasons for varicose veins include:
- Age over 50
- Standing for long periods
- A family history of varicose veins
Varicose veins affect the veins that are farthest from the heart, the most. The condition often affects the legs as the veins there are the farthest from the heart, and it is harder for the blood to flow upward due to the action of gravity there.
How are varicose veins diagnosed?
A doctor may begin the diagnosis of varicose veins by examining the legs and the visible veins of the patient while they are sitting as well as standing. The doctor may inquire into the symptoms faced by the patient and any pain they’re experiencing.
A doctor for varicose veins may also order an ultrasound to check the blood flow in the veins.
To further access the veins, depending upon the location, a doctor may ask for a venogram. The doctor injects a special dye into the legs of the patient and takes X-rays of the area. This helps in getting a better view of the blood flow.
Both the varicose veins test helps the doctor in ensuring that pain or swelling in the legs of the patient is not caused by another disorder like a blood clot or a blockage.
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How are varicose veins treated?
In cases where the patient is facing no symptoms or discomfort and is not bothered by the sight of the condition, varicose veins treatment might not be necessary. In other cases, varicose veins medicine and treatment aims at reducing the pain or discomfort and addressing the complications. Some patients may also want varicose veins cure for cosmetic reasons.
- Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes like avoiding standing for extended periods, losing weight, and regular exercising can help in preventing the varicose veins from becoming worse.
- Compression: Doctors may advise wearing compression socks or stockings. They help in decreasing the swelling and helping the blood to flow more easily to the heart by placing enough pressure on the legs.
- Surgery: In rare cases where the patient is facing a lot of pain and other methods do not work, the doctor may try an invasive procedure like vein litigation and stripping. During the procedure, a vascular surgeon makes a cut in the skin, cut the varicose vein, and removes it through the incisions.
Other less invasive treatment options include:
- Laser surgery
- Endovenous ablation therapy
- Endoscopic vein surgery
How can varicose veins be prevented?
Varicose veins prevention is not possible. However, some measures can be taken to improve the circulation and muscle tone to reduce the risk of developing the condition.
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a high-fibre, low-salt diet
- Avoiding wearing high heels and tight hosiery
- Elevating the legs
- Change standing and sitting positions regularly