Varicose Veins

1 What are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged veins. Any vein can become varicose vein but mostly those in legs and feet because of high pressure in those veins.

Mostly, it is a mild variation or cosmetic concern. But for other people, it may become an aching and discomforting problem.

2 Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of varicose veins include:

  • veins that are dark purple,
  • veins that appear twisted.

When painful signs and symptoms occur they may include:

  • aching or heavy feeling,
  • burning feeling,
  • muscle cramping,
  • swelling in the lower legs,
  • worsening pain after standing for longtime,
  • itching around the vein,
  • bleeding,
  • hardening of the brain,
  • inflammation of the skin.

Varicose veins may occur in the legs or in the face.

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3 Causes

Causes of varicose veins include:

  • Age - people of older age are more predisposed to develop varicose veins.
  • Pregnancy - pregnant women often develop varicose veins due to decreased flow of blood.

Veins return blood from rest of the body to heart. To return blood, veins in legs must work against gravity. Muscle contractions help to pump blood.

4 Making a Diagnosis

To diagnose varicose veins, doctor will perform a physical examination to have a closer look at the legs.

An ultrasound test may be required to test function of valves in veins.

5 Treatment

Usually, treatment is not required in mild cases of varicose veins. If treatment is required, it does not take long due to less invasive procedures. It may be also done for cosmetic reasons.

The following surgical procedures may be required for severe varicose veins:

  • Sclerotherapy - doctor injects small and medium sized varicose veins with a solution that closes veins. This therapy may be required more than once.
  • Foam sclerotherapy of large veins - injection of foam solution in the large veins is also possible to seal it.
  • Catheter assisted procedures - doctor inserts a catheter into enlarged vein and heats tip of catheter. As catheter is pulled out, heat destroys vein.
  • High ligation and vein stripping - this procedure involves tying veins and removing it through small incisions.
  • Ambulatory phlebotomy - the doctor removes through a series of tiny skin punctures.
  • Endoscopic vein surgery - this is required only in advanced cases involving leg ulcers. The surgeon uses a thin video camera to visualize varicose veins and remove it through small incisions. Varicose veins that develop during pregnancy may improve without medical treatment.

6 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Many alternative remedies may prove to be helpful for varicose veins but a doctor’s advice is recommended. These include

  • butcher’s broom,
  • grapes,
  • horse chestnut,
  • sweet clover.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to ease the pain of varicose veins. These modifications include:

  • exercising,
  • losing weight,
  • not wearing tight clothes,
  • elevating legs,
  • avoiding long periods of standing.

8 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with varicose veins.

The following factors may increase the risk of varicose veins:

  • Age - the risk of varicose veins increases with age. Aging causes wear and tear on the walls leading to dilation of veins.
  • Sex - women are more likely to develop this condition due to hormonal changes.
  • Family history - a family history of varicose veins increases the chance.
  • Obesity - being overweight increases the pressure on lower veins.
  • Standing or sitting for long periods of time - maintaining this position increases pressure on the veins.

Although complications are rare, but some of the following may develop:

  • Ulcers - ulcerations of skin near varicose veins may develop due to long-term fluid buildup.
  • Blood clots - the affected leg may swell up and a blood clot may be formed in the veins (thrombophlebitis).
  • Bleeding - due to increased pressure in the veins, they may burst and internal bleeding may occur.
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