Varicose Vein: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

In the circulation of blood in a human body, arteries carry blood from the heart to the rest of the tissues, and veins return blood from the rest of the body to the heart, so the blood can be recirculated. When there is an improper or poor circulation of blood, the veins become twisted and swollen. This twisted and swollen veins most times mistaken for spider veins are medically called varicose veins.

Varicose veins are swollen and enlarged veins that usually occur when the veins become enlarged, dilated, and overfilled with blood. They may be blue or dark purple, and are often lumpy, bulging or twisted in appearance. Women tend to experience varicose veins more than men, but men are certainly not immune to its effects either.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are a common condition caused by weak or damaged vein walls and valves. They occur just below the surface and are dilated, snake-like parts of the veins that appear swollen, because there is a back-flow of blood pooling in that section of vein. This condition is likely to be caused by any of the following;

Pregnancy:

During pregnancy, the volume of blood in your body increases. This change supports the growing fetus, but also can produce an unfortunate side effect — enlarged veins. Hormonal changes during pregnancy may also play a role.

Constipation:

Chronic constipation, urinary retention from an enlarged prostate, chronic cough, or any other conditions that cause a person to strain for prolonged periods of time causes an increase in the forces transmitted to the veins and may result in varicose veins.

Age:

The risk of varicose veins increases with age. Aging causes wear and tear on the valves in your veins that help regulate blood flow. Eventually, that wear causes the valves to allow some blood to flow back into your veins where it collects instead of flowing up to the heart.

Standing or sitting for long periods of time:

When ever you are standing or sitting at a spot for a long period of time, there is usually a slow flow of blood. Persistence reduction in the flow of blood makes the veins to be enlarged, swollen, and twisted, often appearing blue or dark purple under the skin of a light-skinned individual.

Family history of varicose veins:

There is a believe though not scientifically proven that if other family members had varicose veins, there’s a greater chance you will too.

 Tumor:

Any swelling of a part of the body, generally without inflammation, caused by an abnormal growth of tissue, whether benign or malignant that blocks veins thus resulting in the slow flow of blood can cause varicose veins.

Obesity and overweight:

Obesity can also cause varicose veins to develop. Carrying extra pounds puts pressure on your veins. Larger veins start to bulge as the blood pools in the leg veins due to insufficient valves that are made worse by the extra weight.

Not only can obesity contribute to varicose veins developing, being overweight can mask the problem. Obese people may not realize they have varicose veins if the veins are not visible due to excess fat. If unseen, varicose veins go untreated, which can lead to more serious health problems, including leg ulcers.

Menopause:

Research shows that both estrogen and progesterone have beneficial effects on vein wall support. The rise and subsequent drop of estrogen and progesterone during pre-menopause, peri-menopause, and menopause can create thickened and less flexible vein walls. The thickened and flexible vein walls create narrowed pathways for returning blood, causing congestion and further swelling.

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

Although some individuals may have no symptoms, usual signs and symptoms of varicose veins may include:

  • veins look twisted, swollen, and lumpy (bulging)
  • the veins are blue or dark purple
  • aching and heavy legs, especially after exercise or at night
  • a minor injury to the affected area may result in longer bleeding than normal
  • lipodermatosclerosis – fat under the skin just above the ankle can become hard, resulting in the skin shrinking
  • swollen ankles
  • telangiectasia in the affected leg (spider veins)
  • there may be a shiny skin discoloration near the varicose veins, usually brownish or blue in color
  • venous eczema (stasis dermatitis) – skin in the affected area is red, dry, and itchy
  • when suddenly standing up, some individuals experience leg cramps
  • a high percentage of people with varicose veins also have restless legs syndrome
  • atrophie blanche – irregular whitish patches that look like scars appear at the ankles

Treatment for Varicose Veins

Doctors usually recommends some helpful self practices that can help. These practices which can be performed as a form of treatment for varicose veins include:

  • leg elevation while sitting or sleeping,
  • compression dressings with single or multilayered systems,
  • compression stockings,

If you don’t respond to any of the self-care or compression stockings as mentioned above, or if your condition is more severe, your doctor may suggest one of these varicose vein treatments:

Sclerotherapy:

In this procedure, your doctor injects small- and medium-sized varicose veins with a solution or foam that scars and closes those veins. In a few weeks, treated varicose veins should fade.

Although the same vein may need to be injected more than once, sclerotherapy is effective if done correctly. Sclerotherapy doesn’t require anesthesia and can be done in your doctor’s office.

Laser treatment:

Doctors are using new technology in laser treatments to close off smaller varicose veins and spider veins. Laser treatment works by sending strong bursts of light onto the vein, which makes the vein slowly fade and disappear. No incisions or needles are used.
Catheter-assisted procedures using radiofrequency or laser energy. In one of these treatments, your doctor inserts a thin tube (catheter) into an enlarged vein and heats the tip of the catheter using either radiofrequency or laser energy. As the catheter is pulled out, the heat destroys the vein by causing it to collapse and seal shut. This procedure is the preferred treatment for larger varicose veins.

High ligation and vein stripping:

This procedure involves tying off a vein before it joins a deep vein and removing the vein through small incisions. This is an outpatient procedure for most people. Removing the vein won’t adversely affect circulation in your leg because veins deeper in the leg take care of the larger volumes of blood.

Ambulatory phlebectomy:

Your doctor removes smaller varicose veins through a series of tiny skin punctures. Only the parts of your leg that are being pricked are numbed in this outpatient procedure. Scarring is generally minimal.

Endoscopic vein surgery:

You might need this operation only in an advanced case involving leg ulcers if other techniques fail. Your surgeon uses a thin video camera inserted in your leg to visualize and close varicose veins and then removes the veins through small incisions. This procedure is performed on an outpatient basis.

Prevention of Varicose Veins:

To reduce the risk of developing varicose veins, you will need to follow and maintain the routines below:

  • get plenty of exercise, for example, walking
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • healthy eating habits can play a major role in preventing varicose veins.
  • avoid standing still for too long. Anyone who has to stand for their job should try to move around at least once every 30 minutes.
  • do not sit with the legs crossed
  • sit or sleep with your feet raised on a pillow