Defective valves in the veins result in hampered flow of venous blood against gravity upwards towards the heart. These often result in enlarged, swollen, and twisting veins that appear blue-dark purple in color. They are usually observed in the veins of the lower body.
If not treated properly, varicose veins are not only painful, but they can also become a health threat. According to a recent study, people with varicose veins were more prone to develop a condition of blood clotting known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Hence, early measures should be taken to prevent varicose veins.
What are the symptoms of Varicose Veins?
Developing varicose veins is not a serious concern in most cases, but if you see any of the following signs, it may point to varicose veins.
Varicose veins may not cause pain at first. Signs that you may be having varicose veins include:
1. Veins that are blue or dark purple in color
2. Veins that appear bulging and twisted (Veins are often like cords on your legs)
When painful signs and symptoms occur, they include:
1. Experiencing constant itching around your veins.
2. Prolonged pain after standing or sitting for long hours.
3. Heaviness in the leg, especially after exercising.
4. Aching sensation around the veins.
5. Burning sensation and throbbing veins around the legs.
6. Discoloration of the skin around varicose veins.
7. A minor injury that leads to prolonged and abnormal bleeding.
8. Swelling in the lower legs
What are the Causes of Varicose Veins?
The formation of varicose veins is common in adults. They appear when the valves and walls of veins are damaged or weak.
Our veins have only one-way valves inside them. They help the blood flow towards the heart. Whenever these veins have weakened or damaged valves or walls, it can cause blood to pool and flow backward. This process is called reflux. The veins may become distorted and grow larger, resulting in varicose veins. Situations that put pressure on the abdomen eventually result in the formation of varicose veins. Examples include obesity, pregnancy, or even standing for a long duration. Chronic constipation and, in rare cases, tumors might cause varicose veins.
What are the Risk Factors Related to Varicose Veins?
Usually, varicose veins can be seen in a person belonging to any age group. However, the following categories of people are more prone to have this condition:
1. Family history- If someone in your family has/ had varicose veins, then there is a good possibility of you developing this problem.
2. Your posture- If your work requires you to sit/ stand for long hours, then please take early precautions as blood doesn’t flow well when we are in the same position for a long period.
3. Pregnancy- Hormonal change during pregnancy usually results in varicose veins. When a woman is pregnant, her body’s blood volume increases, which helps the fetus grow normally but sometimes causes a side effect, which is varicose veins. (Not every woman develops varicose veins during pregnancy).
4. Age- This condition of varicose veins usually occurs in adults. Due to aging, our veins experience some wear and tear in the valves that regulate the blood flow towards the heart. As blood does not flow, it gets accumulated, thus forming varicose veins.
5. Weight- If a person is obese, he/she will be more prone to varicose veins because the weight causes unnecessary pressure on their veins, making the veins weaker, which results in this condition.
6. Gender- Women are more prone to experience varicose veins due to many factors such as-
o Taking birth control pills
Can Varicose Veins Lead to Further Complications?
The answer is yes and no. It all depends from person to person. Varicose veins complications are very rare, but if the situation gets complicated, it can result in the following health problems:
Complications of varicose veins, though rare, may include:
1. Ulcers. Painful ulcers may be formed on your skin near varicose veins, mainly near your ankles. Usually, a discoloured spot on the skin starts before an ulcer is formed. Consult a doctor immediately if you suspect you have developed an ulcer.
2. Bleeding- The veins which are extremely close to your skin might burst occasionally, which will eventually result in bleeding. Bleeding, no matter how major or minor, should be given medical attention as soon as possible.
3. Blood Clots- Veins that are present deep within the legs become enlarged very occasionally. Due to this, the affected leg may experience pain and swell due to inflammation. If you experience any pain in your leg and observe persistent swelling, then consult a doctor immediately.
How are Varicose Veins Diagnosed?
When consulting a doctor, your doctor will ask you to stand to check if there are any noticeable signs of swelling that might indicate the presence of varicose veins.
Your varicose veins can be diagnosed through the following tests:
● Ultrasound- Your ultrasound will present colored images of your varicose veins which will help the doctor to identify them.
What are the treatment options for varicose veins?
There are many measures that a person suffering from varicose veins can take to treat this condition. Some home remedies to prevent varicose veins include:
● Exercise for weight loss
● Lie on a chair or a bed and raise your legs to improve the blood circulation in your lower part of the body
● Avoid standing or sitting for long hours
● Avoid sitting cross-legged.
● Consuming low-salt, high-fiber diet
● Using compression stockings will squeeze your legs and enhance blood circulation
There are also many medical treatment options for varicose veins. A few of them include-·
1. Sclerotherapy: The procedure involves injecting (by your doctor) the small- and medium-sized varicose veins with a foam or solution that scars and closes those veins. In a some weeks, the treated varicose veins should fade.
2. Foam Sclerotherapy of large veins: Injecting a large vein with a foam solution is also a potential treatment to close a vein as well as seal it.
3. Catheter-assisted procedures using laser energy or radiofrequency: In one of these treatment procedures, your treating doctor inserts a catheter (thin tube) into an enlarged vein and then, heats the tip of catheter using either laser energy or radiofrequency. When the catheter is pulled out, the heat destroys the vein by causing it to breakdown and seal shut. Catheter-assisted procedures are the preferred treatment for larger varicose veins.
4. Laser treatment: Doctors are currently using newer technology in laser treatments to close off spider veins and smaller varicose veins. Laser treatment includes sending strong bursts of light onto the affected vein, which, in turn, makes the vein slowly fade and disappear. No cuts, incisions or needles are used.
5. Ambulatory phlebectomy: In this procedure, a series of tiny skin punctures are made by your treating doctor to remove smaller varicose veins. The outpatient procedure involves numbing of only those parts of your leg that are being pricked. Scarring is generally minimal.
6. High ligation and vein stripping: In this procedure, the vein is tied off before it joins a deep vein and the vein is removed through small cuts/incisions.
7. Endoscopic vein surgery: This surgery is required only in the advanced cases involving leg ulcers when other techniques fail. A thin video camera inserted in your leg by your surgeon to visualize and close varicose veins and later remove the veins through small incisions. Usually, varicose veins that develop during pregnancy improve without treatment within 3 to 12 months after delivery.
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What are the Precautions to Avoid Varicose Veins?
Although you may not know when you might develop varicose veins, you can always take some precautions if you lie in any of the above-mentioned categories of people who are more prone to varicose veins.
The following precautions are suggested before the condition gets worse.
● Avoid prolonged periods of sitting or standing. Take frequent breaks and change your routine after short intervals if you are experiencing any discomfort. Peddle your feet, stretch your ankles, or bend your knee a few times.
● Maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you know that varicose veins run in your genes, it is better to take timely precautions. Maintain a healthy body weight and go for a workout or diet plan if necessary.
Will Varicose Veins Affect Your Way of Life?
Having varicose veins will rarely impact your usual way of living. Only if you start observing severe symptoms like ulcers, blood clots, or bleeding around the affected area, you should take treatment. Else, with appropriate home remedies and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you can prevent varicose veins at a very early stage.
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