Varicose veins are swollen and twisted blood vessels bulging just beneath the surface of the skin. They commonly develop in the feet, legs, or ankles and are either blue or purple. They might also be uncomfortable or irritating.
Spider veins may sometimes surround varicose veins. These are tiny red or purple lines that form near the surface of the skin. Generally, varicose veins are not dangerous for the majority of people, even though they're unattractive and painful. However, severe varicose veins can cause serious health complications, including blood clots, in certain circumstances.
Luckily, most symptoms of varicose vein symptoms can be treated at home. Alternatively, your healthcare provider may use laser therapy, injections, or surgery to treat them.
Signs and Symptoms of Varicose Veins
Usually, there is no pain in most cases. However, varicose veins can cause the following signs and symptoms;
- The veins appear to be swollen, twisted, and bumpy (bulging)
- The veins are either blue or dark purple.
Other people may also have the following varicose veins symptoms;
- A slight injury to the affected part may cause the bleeding to last longer than usual.
- Atrophie blanche; around the ankles, uneven whitish patches that resemble scars emerge.
- Discoloration of the skin along the varicose veins that are normally blue or brownish.
- Heavy legs, particularly after a workout or during the night.
- Ipodermatosclerosis, fat beneath the skin over the ankle, can harden, causing the skin to shrink.
- Pain in the legs
- Restless legs syndrome, which affects a large number of patients with varicose veins.
- Some people develop leg cramps when they suddenly stand up.
- Swelling of the varicose veins ankle
- Telangiectasia around the impaired leg (spider veins)
- Venous eczema (stasis dermatitis); this is when the skin around the affected part becomes red, dry, and irritating.
Causes of Varicose Veins
Varicose veins can occur due to damaged or weak valves. Arteries normally transport blood from the heart to the body tissues. On the other hand, veins take back blood from the body towards the heart, allowing the blood to re-circulate. The veins in the legs and feet have to battle against gravity in order to return blood towards the heart.
Lower leg muscle contractions operate as pumps, while the flexible vein walls aid blood flow back to the heart. As blood rushes toward your heart, tiny valves within the veins open up and seal to prevent blood from going backward. Blood may flow back and accumulate in the vein when these valves get damaged or weak. Hence, it causes stretching or twisting of the veins.
Some of the risk factors that can contribute to varicose veins include;
- Age: Varicose veins become more common as people get older. The valves within the veins, which assist in controlling blood supply, tend to wear off with age. As a result of this wear, the valves eventually let some blood move backward into the veins, where it gathers, rather than moving up towards the heart.
- Pregnancy: The amount of blood throughout the body rises during pregnancy. This shift benefits the developing fetus, although it also has the unintended consequence of causing larger veins within the legs. Hormone changes that occur while pregnant may as well be a contributing factor.
- Gender: Women are more prone than men to develop varicose veins. Female hormones relax the vein walls. Therefore, alteration in hormones before your period, during pregnancy, or throughout menopause could be an influence. Also, hormonal therapy, including birth control pills, may raise your chances of developing varicose veins.
- Overweight: Obesity leads to additional strain on the veins in the legs.
- Family history: You are more likely to develop varicose veins if a member of your family has or has had them.
- Long periods of standing or sitting: When you remain in the same position for an extended period, your blood will not circulate well as it should. Hence, varicose veins might develop.
Complications of Varicose Veins
Though rare, the following complications might be associated with varicose veins;
Ulcers: Around the varicose veins, especially near the ankles, painful ulcers can occur on the skin. Before the formation of the ulcer, a discolored blemish around the skin normally appears. If you think that you have developed an ulcer, consult the varicose veins doctor right away.
Bleeding: Veins near the surface of the skin can sometimes burst. Relatively mild bleeding can occur as a result of this. However, any bleeding, whether minor or chronic, needs immediate medical attention.
Formation of blood clots: Veins deep in the legs can occasionally expand. In these circumstances, the impaired leg might swell and become sore. A doctor should check up on any chronic leg discomfort or swelling since it could be a sign of a blood clot, also known as thrombophlebitis.
Varicose Veins Diagnosis
To diagnose varicose veins, your healthcare provider will start by examining your legs and noticeable veins while you are standing or sitting. They might inquire about any discomfort or the symptoms you are experiencing.
The doctor can recommend an ultrasound to look at your blood supply. Ultrasound is a noninvasive diagnostic technique that utilizes high-frequency sound waves. It enables your provider to examine the flow of blood within the veins.
A venogram may also be performed to analyze further the veins, based on the exact location. This procedure involves injecting a special dye into the legs and taking x-rays of the affected region. The dye will be visible on x-rays, allowing the doctor to see how your blood is circulating more clearly.
Ultrasounds and venograms are used to make sure that the swelling and pain in the legs are not due to something else. It could be a blood clot or an obstruction.
Varicose Veins Treatment
Treatment may not be essential if the patient doesn’t show any symptoms, experiences pain, and is unconcerned about the appearance of varicose veins. If the symptoms are present, however, treatment might be necessary to relieve pain or discomfort, as well as address problems like leg ulcers, swelling, and skin discoloration.
Some people seek treatment for cosmetic reasons in order to remove the "hideous" varicose veins.
The doctor can thus recommend the following varicose veins treatment options depending on the severity and location;
- Laser surgical procedure
Varicose veins that are big might have to be surgically removed. The surgical procedure is frequently performed under general anesthesia. In most circumstances, the patient can return home on that same day. However, if surgery on both legs is needed, the patient might have to stay in the hospital for the night.
Smaller veins, as well as spider veins, are frequently treated using laser treatments. The vein is illuminated with powerful bursts of light that fade and dissipate over time.
- Stripping and ligation
This procedure involves creating two small cuts. One is created around the groin over the target vein, while the other is made on the lower leg, at the knee or ankle. The vein's top is tied off and sealed. After that, a tiny, flexible wire is put into the vein's bottom and pulled out, along with the vein.
This operation normally does not necessitate a hospital stay. Bleeding, bruising, and discomfort are all possible side effects of ligation and stripping. Deep vein thrombosis can occur under extremely uncommon circumstances.
The majority of the patients usually require one to three weeks to heal after treatment before returning to work and day-to-day activities. Compression stockings may be worn during the healing period.
This approach involves injecting a solution or foam into tiny and medium-sized varicose veins, scarring, and closing them. Varicose veins that have been treated should diminish within a few weeks.
Sclerotherapy is successful if done properly, even if the same vein might have to be injected multiple times. On the other hand, it does not need anesthesia and could be performed in the cardiovascular surgery office.
- Radiofrequency ablation
Radiofrequency ablation involves creating a small incision over or beneath the knee. A narrow tube or catheter is then threaded inside the vein with the assistance of an ultrasound scan.
The physician will put a probe emitting radiofrequency energy into the catheter. The radiofrequency energy warms the vein, forcing the walls to subside and effectively close and seal it shut.
Medical providers often recommend this treatment for more prominent varicose veins, which is done under local anesthetic.
- Ambulatory phlebectomy
This treatment involves removing smaller varicose veins via a series of minor skin punctures under local anesthesia. This anesthesia numbs only the areas of the leg that are being poked. In most cases, scarring is mild.
Veins that are twisted and swollen are known as varicose veins. Any superficial vein can be varicose, although the veins in your legs are the most usually afflicted. This is because standing or walking upright puts more pressure on your lower body's veins.
Varicose veins rarely result in major health issues. Consult your doctor if your veins are painful, bleeding, and if the region is enlarged. You can correct your veins using minimally invasive approaches or minimize symptoms with varicose veins home remedies.