What are Varicose Veins?
Have you ever experienced swollen veins that appear on the legs and feet? These are known as ‘varicose veins.’
They appear when the valves present in the veins do not let blood flow through them freely. This happens due to several reasons including a weakening of the valvular walls and age. For many people, varicose veins and spider veins — a common, milder variation of varicose veins — are simply a cosmetic concern.
For other people, varicose veins can cause aching pain and discomfort. Sometimes varicose veins may lead to even more serious problems. The veins might swell up and cause severe aches in the leg. This is when you need to see a doctor.
Fortunately, there are various treatments available including home remedies which provide great results.
Let’s talk about some of the symptoms related to this particular condition:
The primary symptoms of varicose veins are highly visible, swollen veins, usually visible on your legs. You may also have pain, swelling, and heaviness over or around the enlarged veins.
In some cases, you can even develop discoloration. Also, in severe cases, the veins can bleed significantly, and lead to the formation of ulcers on the skin
Varicose veins may not cause any pain. Signs you may have varicose veins include:
- Veins that are dark purple or blue in colour
- Veins that appear twisted and bulging often like cords on your legs
Some of the more painful signs and symptoms include:
- An achy or heavy feeling in your legs
- Burning, throbbing, muscle cramping, and swelling in your lower legs
- Worsened pain after sitting or standing for a long time
- Itching around one or more of your veins
- Skin discoloration around a varicose vein
Now that you know when to see a doctor for varicose veins, let’s see what causes them
Experts are unsure why the walls of veins stretch or why the valves become faulty. In many cases, it occurs for no apparent reason. However, some potential risk factors to look out for include:
- being aged over 50
- standing for long periods
- family history of varicose veins- genetics
The following risk factors are linked to a higher risk :
- Sex: Varicose veins affect females more often than males. It might be because female hormones relax veins. If so, taking birth control pills or hormone therapy (HT) might contribute.
- Genetics: Varicose veins often run in families.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of the condition
- Age: The risk increases with age, due to wear and tear on vein valves.
- Some jobs: An individual who has to spend a long time standing at work may have a higher chance of varicose veins.
Pregnancy and Varicose Veins
Women are much more likely to develop varicose veins during their pregnancy than at any other time in their lives. Pregnant women have much more blood in their bodies; this places extra pressure on the circulatory system.
Additionally, changes in hormone levels can lead to a relaxation of the blood vessel walls. Both of these factors raise the risk of having varicose veins.
As the uterus (womb) grows, there is more pressure on the veins in the mother’s pelvic area. In the majority of cases, the varicose veins go away after the pregnancy is over; this is not always the case, and sometimes, even if the state improves, there may be some left visible.
Talking about the dangerous stuff, here are some of the most severe complications and side effects that may arise due to varicose veins:
- Ulcers: Painful ulcers may form on the surface of the skin near these veins, particularly near the ankles. A discolored spot on the skin usually begins before the ulcer forms. See your doctor immediately if you suspect you’ve developed an ulcer.
- Blood clots: Occasionally, veins deep within the legs become enlarged. In such cases, the affected leg may become painful and swell. Any persistent leg pain or swelling warrants medical attention because it may indicate a blood clot — a condition known medically as thrombophlebitis.
- Bleeding: Sometimes, veins very close to the skin may burst. This usually causes only minor bleeding. But any bleeding requires immediate medical attention.
Wondering how to prevent all this? Well, read along:
The number one way to prevent the horror of these deep veins is improving your blood circulation and muscle tone. This helps keep your veins active and healthy. To ensure this, there are several things that you can do that includes:
- Getting plenty of exercises
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Avoiding high heels and tight hosiery
- Elevating your legs(sit or sleep with your feet raised on a pillow)
- Changing your sitting or standing position regularly
Anyone who has to stand for their job should try to move around at least once every 30 minutes.
Also it is important to point out that varicose veins normally worsen over time. This is true even if you make the necessary lifestyle changes to control them and manage your pain. While they may be unsightly, they usually don’t cause any long-term medical problems.
In some cases, varicose veins can lead to ulcers or sores on your legs, blood clots, or chronic inflammation. If you have a severe case, your veins could rupture. Seeing a doctor would be your best bet if you develop any of these symptoms.
Doctors may then suggest taking a more aggressive approach, such as surgery or other interventions.
Let’s now hit upon how varicose veins diagnosed and what to expect when you visit a doctor?
Diagnosis of Varicose Veins:
A physical examination, mainly visual, by a doctor will decide whether or not a patient has varicose veins. The patient will be asked to stand while the doctor checks for signs of swelling and popped veins.
The following diagnostic tests are sometimes advised:
- Doppler test: An ultrasound scan to check the direction of blood flow in the veins. This test also checks for blood clots or obstructions in the veins.
- Colour duplex ultrasound scan: This provides colour images of the structure of veins, which helps the doctor identify any abnormalities. It can also measure the speed of blood flow.
Here are some other methods that your doctor might resort to while checking for the condition:
Your doctor may advise you to wear special compression socks or stockings. These are available over the counter at any drug store. These place enough pressure on your legs so that blood can flow more easily to your heart. They also decrease swelling and trauma on the veins.
If lifestyle changes and home remedies do not work, or if your varicose veins are causing a lot of pain or damaging your overall health, your doctor might try an invasive procedure.
Vein ligation and stripping is a surgical treatment that requires local anaesthesia. During the procedure, your surgeon makes cuts in your ski and cuts the affected veins, and removes it through the incisions. Although updated variations of vein-stripping surgeries have been developed, they are less commonly performed because newer, less invasive options are available.
Other treatment options:
Currently, a wide variety of minimally invasive treatment options are available for these leg veins. These include:
- sclerotherapy, using a liquid or foam chemical injection to block off a larger vein
- Micro sclerotherapy, using a liquid chemical injection to block off smaller veins
- laser surgery, using light energy to block off a vein
- endovenous ablation therapy, using heat and radiofrequency waves to block off a sick vein
- endoscopic vein surgery, using a small lighted scope inserted through a small incision to block off a vein
While varicose veins may never become a health concern, they have the potential to develop into a vein ailment or disease over many years. If you have varicose veins, you primarily may not enjoy the look of them, but they are generally not harmful or something to be frantic about.
In fact, the majority of people choose to have varicose veins removed for cosmetic purposes only. Notwithstanding this, varicose veins are not to be neglected or overlooked as well. If due care isn’t taken right from their formative stages, they might have the potential to develop into serious medical conditions. If you are still doubtful and need more intel on the condition, you can speak to our health consultants at Dr.Amal Al Qedrah for more insights.