Varicose veins is a medical condition characterized by leg veins that are dilated and overfilled with blood. The veins appear to be swollen and raised from the skin. They also have dark blue or purplish colour.
If you are suffering from this condition, you may also have a dull or achy pain in your legs and they will often feel tired.
Demographically, varicose veins tends to occur in women more than in men. Approximately 1 in 4 adults are suffering from it at any point in time.
Varicose veins may appear anywhere in the legs and feet but, most often, they will occur below the knee.
Treatment for varicose veins is usually conservative unless the condition is severe.
Although many people believe that spider veins is another name for varicose veins, this is not the case.Spider veins are usually red or blue in colour (instead of dark blue or purple). They also tend to be superficial veins (i.e. closer to the skin) compared to varicose veins.
Varicose veins should also not be confused with deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is a different and sometimes life threatening condition that is caused by blood clots in the lower leg veins.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Your veins have valves that are designed to keep the blood flowing through them in one direction only – back towards the heart. However, these veins can sometimes develop faults that cause them to start preventing blood flow back to the heart.
Even in a healthy person, the blood flowing back to the heart through the lower leg veins has to fight gravity to do so. If the veins start to block blood flow, the combination of gravity and malfunctioning valves will cause your blood to pool in your veins instead of proceeding to your heart.
When this happens, the accumulation of blood in your veins causes them to appear enlarged and discoloured. This enlarged and discoloured appearance is the main symptom of varicose veins.
The following circumstances represent risk factors that increase the rlikelihhod that you will experience varicose veins:
Being female, as female hormones tend to reduce the tension of the walls of your veins. This in turn makes it more difficult for your leg muscles to do their normal job and push your blood up through these veins and back to your heart.
Being pregnant, as this increases the volume of blood in your body and thus enlarges your veins. Pregnancy itself can cause hormonal changes that can also act to reduce the tension of your vein walls;
Using birth control pills, as some of these are are hormone based. As a result, they may act to further decrease the tension in your vein walls;
Increasing age, which in turn increases the likelihood that vein valves may start to malfunction due to wear and tear;
Having a job that requires long periods of standing or sitting. This can tend to inhibit your circulation and increase your varicose veins risk;
Obesity increases the pressure on your blood vessels and thus the risk of developing varicose veins;
If you have family members with varicose veins, this seems to increase the risk that you too will develop them at some point.
Symptoms Of Varicose Veins
As mentioned at the start of this post, the main symptoms of this health condition are enlarged, misshapen veins that are dark blue or purple in color.
You may also experience swelling and achiness around the enlarged veins. Your legs may feel tired and heavy due to the accumulation of stale blood in your lower extremities.
If you have a severe case of varicose veins, you may they may occasionally bleed and ulcers can sometimes develop.
Diagnosing Varicose Veins
To perform a diagnosis of your condition, your doctor will likely physically examine your legs. He or she will also likely ask you questions about any pain you may be experiencing. For example, what sort of pain is it? And, what makes it worse?
The doctor may also consider doing an ultrasound scan to see whether your lower leg blood flow is normal or inhibited in some way.
Another way to check your lower leg blood flow is to do a veinogram. Under this procedure, your doctor will inject a special dye into your legs and take X Rays of the areas with varicose veins.
The dye will show up on the X Ray images and illustrate how easily your blood is flowing through your lower leg veins.
Ultrasounds or veinograms will also detect any blood clots that may be present in your legs. They will also help the doctor to perform differential diagnosis by confirming that no other object is obstructing the flow of blood through your veins.
Treatment Of Varicose Veins
If your varicose veins are mild or moderate in severity, your doctor may recommend lifestyle modifications, such as:
Increasing your exercise activity to improve your circulations;
Try to change your position frequently, and avoid standing or sitting in one position for prolonged periods.
Graduated Compression Stockings
Another treatment for mild or moderate varicose veins is wearing compression socks or stockings. These apply higher levels of compression at ankle level than at knee level, a technology known as graduated compression. As a result, they force the blood back up your legs towards your heart.
Graduated compression socks or stockings may be worn all day to provide a continuous boost to your lower extremity circulation. You can also buy them with many alternative compression levels. This means that you have many alternatives when trying to find a pair that provides an acceptable comfort level allied to adequate compression.
This is the final option that your doctor will likely suggest if your varicose veins are severe. The main options are:
This is an invasive process for which you will need to be anaethesized. Your doctor will make cuts in your skin, then cut off (litigate) the damaged veins. Finally, the veins are removed through the cuts in your skin.
Although this procedure was at one time a common one, it is norw much more rare than it used to be. This is because less invasive methods have been developed.
This uses a liquid or foam chemical to fill and eventually close the varicose veins permanently.
This approach uses laser energy to close varicose (as well as spider) veins.
Endoscopic Vein Surgery
Endoscoipic surgery involves inserting a tiny camera through a small incision in the skin. The images from this camera are then used by the surgeon as he or she srips the varicose veins.
Your doctor will be able to discuss the full range of surgical options with you. He or she can then make a recommendation as to which is best suited for you.