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HomeHealth A-Z Varicose Veins
Varicose Veins
Varicose Veins
Varicose veins don’t just look unsightly, they also cause pain, especially when an affected individual stands or walks for long periods of time.

Varicose Veins

Definition of Varicose Veins

Varicose Veins are swollen and twisted veins which usually develop in the lower legs that are caused by a weakening in the vein's walls or valves.

Description of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are veins that have literally become enlarged and twisted. Most people associate varicose veins with women and only in the legs, but this is not accurate. Varicose veins can occur just about anywhere on the body. Usually varicose veins are unsightly and stand out against the otherwise smooth skin. These veins can itch, but scratching just exacerbates the problem by causing ulcers at the site.

Veins are known to have valves that work to stop blood from flowing backwards through the vein. The leg muscles manipulate the veins to bring the blood back to the heart. For those that have varicose veins, the veins become enlarged and the valves cannot work properly and the blood is allowed to collect in the veins and cause further enlargement.

Unfortunately varicose veins don’t just look unsightly, they also cause pain, especially when an affected individual stands or walks for long periods of time. Luckily, serious complications of varicose veins aren’t all that common. There are many non-surgical treatments that can help those that are affected find relief from the pain, but there are also surgical treatments for those that cannot find relief from the less invasive treatments.

Varicose veins are often confused with spider veins, but the two are completely different issues that need to be treated accordingly. The conditions can be diagnosed simply by looking at the size and location of the affected area. In addition, varicose veins are usually much bigger and more noticeable than spider veins.

Causes and Risk Factors of Varicose Veins

The cause of varicose veins are different for everyone, but they are more common in women than they are in men so it stands to reason that being female predisposes one to them. It is known that varicose veins are hereditary, so if you know that others in your family suffer there is a good chance that you will as well. Other risk factors are pregnancy, obesity, menopause, aging, and standing for long periods of time, such as during the work day.

The cause, as mentioned above is the enlargement of a vein which causes the valves in the vein to stop working correctly. When the valves no longer operate correctly the blood is allowed to flow backward, causing further enlargement. When the vein becomes enlarged it can become twisted and will actually stand out from the rest of the skin. It’s hard to determine at the time what actually caused the vein to stop working properly, but it can usually be attributed to one of the risk factors previously listed. Many individuals will have just one varicose vein while others will be plagued with them all over their body.

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

There are many different symptoms associated with varicose veins, and some experience all of them while others only experience one or two of them. One of the most common symptoms associated with varicose veins are achy legs that feel heavy especially when you lay down for the night or after you exercise. Another common symptom is swelling of the ankles and a shiny brown discoloration of the skin around the veins. The discoloration of the skin can also take on a blue color. It has been reported that the skin around the affected vein can become very thin, develop eczema, and become very dry and itchy.

Other symptoms include darkening of the skin due to the waste products building up in the skin. Other patients notice that simple cuts and scrapes around the area will bleed more or will not heal as quickly as it had before. There can also be a gathering of blood under the skin if a vein ruptures, causing a large, dark looking bruise under the skin. In addition to the previously mentioned symptoms many patients experience a shrinking of the skin around the ankle and they may well develop Restless Leg Syndrome.

Diagnosis of Varicose Veins

The diagnosis of varicose veins is not at all difficult for a doctor that has experience with vascular conditions such as varicose veins, spider veins, and more. The diagnosis can be made simply by looking at the patient and asking questions about lifestyle. Even when a doctor doesn’t have this information he or she can make the diagnosis because varicose veins appear very different from other conditions such as spider veins, which are similar, but they are not as enlarged as varicose veins. A visit to your primary care physician can usually get you the diagnosis you need to proceed with treatment whether you choose the less invasive procedures or you choose something surgical.

Treatment of Varicose Veins

There are two basic types of treatment for varicose veins and those are non-surgical treatments and surgical treatments. Most doctors recommend that patients attempt to solve the problem with non-surgical treatments before doing surgery, and this is because many of the non-surgical treatments are affordable and effective and it is worth it to give it a try before doing an invasive treatment.

One great way to provide relief is to wear compression stockings. This type of stalking has been very effective in reducing swelling and pressure in the legs. They can also help provide pain relief that is often associated with a site that is affected by varicose veins.

Another great treatment is anti-inflammatory medications. These medications can be purchased over the counter and can be effective when used in conjunction with compression stalkings. Others find that taking these medications with Diosmin 95, which is a dietary supplement is effective, though the effectiveness of the product has not been reported by all users.

Many doctors consider open surgery to be the best way to deal with varicose veins that just will not go away with less invasive treatments. There are also newer methods of treating this disease that is known as Endovenous Laser Treatment, which other doctors favor. The fact of the matter is that there is now more information and treatment options for those that are suffering from this unsightly and painful disease. Other treatments are vein stripping, ambulatory phlebotomy, and vein ligation. Every patient has to work with his or her doctor to determine the best course of action for their specific case.

Prevention of Varicose Veins

You cannot always prevent varicose veins if you have a family history of the disease or you live a lifestyle that lends itself to them, but you can take some actions to prevent the development of this disease. First, you should avoid standing for long periods of time if you can help it. Next, you should exercise regularly to keep the vascular system as healthy as possible, and this will also help you avoid obesity which is also a factor in many who develop varicose veins.

External Resources

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Society for Vascular Surgery

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