Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted and can appear ropey. They are swollen, dark blue or purple blood vessels that you can see and feel beneath the skin. The term commonly refers to the veins on the leg, although they can occur elsewhere too. They form when the valves within a vein weaken and allow some blood to flow backward. The vein can weaken under the strain and balloons outward, which causes the skin to raise. This can cause aching, heaviness, swelling, itching, cramping, restless legs, and discomfort. The right treatment can take care of the discomfort associated with the condition and improve the appearance. If left untreated it can lead to serious circulatory problems and worsen over time.
Understanding Varicose Veins
A varicose vein is a condition that affects 3 in 10 adults. Men are less likely to develop varicose veins than women are. Varicose veins can affect any part of the body, but they commonly occur in the feet and legs, particularly the calves. This is because walking and standing exerts a lot of pressure on the veins in your lower body. This web page seeks to discuss what varicose veins are, types of varicose veins, and how they are diagnosed and treated.
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are the veins under the skin of your legs, which are twisted or widened. The leg consists of two main veins: the deep veins and the superficial veins. Your leg muscles exert pressure on the deep veins when walking and this carries blood back from the legs to the heart. The superficial veins are under the skin and play a less significant role.
Both the deep veins and superficial veins have valves that prevent blood from flowing down to the legs and instead push it towards the heart. When these one-way valves are damaged, you experience varicose veins. As a result, blood flows down to your legs and causes excessive pressure when standing. The excess pressure causes the veins to expand or widen.
Types of Varicose Veins
- Trunk varicose veins: In this condition, the veins around the surface of your skin are affected. These veins appear knobbly and thick. They are visible, long, and unpleasant.
- Reticular varicose veins: Red veins that form a network like pattern.
- Telangiectasia varicose veins: These are also called spider or thread veins. They are small clusters of red or blue veins that appear on your legs or face. Spider veins are harmless and do not bulge beneath the skin’s surface like trunk varicose veins.
How are Varicose Veins Diagnosed?
To check for varicose veins, your physician will perform a physical exam that includes observing your legs to check whether there is any swelling. Your doctor could also ask you to describe any aching and pain in your legs.
Your physician may also perform an ultrasound test to check whether the valves in your veins are operating normally or whether you have a blood clot. During this exam, a technician passes a hand-held device/ transducer over your skin. The transducer projects images of the veins in your legs to a screen. This way, your physician is able to determine whether you have expanded veins or any kind of swelling.
Treatment of Varicose Veins
In most cases, varicose veins do not require treatment. When treatment is necessary, your physician will recommend up to six months of engaging in regular exercise, using compression stockings, and elevating your leg when resting.
In complicated cases, the most common treatments are:
- Sclerotherapy- in this procedure, a special foam is used to close your veins
- Endothermal ablation- in this procedure, the affected veins are sealed by applying heat
- Ligation and stripping- this is a surgical procedure conducted to remove the problematic veins