Varicose veins occur when bloods fails to circulate properly normally in the thighs and legs. Blood can pool within the vein causing them to bulge and become visible just under the skin. Varicose veins appear twisted and enlarged, usually dark purple or blue in color. Typically a condition common in women of childbearing age and the elderly, varicose veins can appear from a sedentary lifestyle, genetics, and standing for prolonged periods of time. Often the increased weight from pregnancy or little to no exercise adds pressure on the legs. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, pre-menstruation , or menopause relaxes vein walls. Hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills can increase the risk of varicose veins. Varicose veins can also be caused by inflammation of the veins (phlebitis), blood clots, or congenital abnormalities.
Common symptoms of varicose veins are aching, cramping, itching, swelling, and fatigue. There is more concern of the cosmetic appearance. However, some more severe cases exist such as the formation of blood clots inside the veins (thrombophlebitis) or open sores (ulceration). Mild swelling may occur in feet and ankles as well as skin itching over the varicose vein. Some severe varicose veins symptoms include:
• Increased risk of tissue infection
• Fluid buildup and swelling in legs
• Fungal and bacterial infections from edema
• Significant pain after sitting or standing for long periods of time
Please consult your doctor for a specific diagnosis for varicose veins. Your doctor will perform a general physical examination, question family history and presence of any symptoms of varicose veins. Doppler ultrasound may be used to provide information regarding the potency of blood flow through the veins. However, your doctor may suggest certain steps that can be taken at home that may alleviate the pain or slow down the production of varicose veins. Compression stockings reduces the amount of blood and pressure in the veins, promoting effective circulation. Leg elevation while sitting or laying down prevents blood from pooling in the lower legs and improves flow to the rest of the body.
Treatment of varicose veins varies according to size, location and the severity of the condition. Ablation or laser therapy is usually performed by a general doctor or dermatologist. Laser energy is used to sear and destroy larger varicose veins. This process can also be done with a chemical liquid. Called sclerotherapy, this treatment sears the lining of the vein, causing the vein to close. Depending on the chemical used, allergic reactions are possible. Surgery, performed by a general doctor or dermatologists, may also be an option. Litigation and stripping is standard for troubling varicose veins. Incisions are made above the varicose veins which are then fed off and removed. Side effects of surgery are scarring from incisions and typical effects from anesthetic including nausea and vomiting. Radiofrequency treatments is a relatively new procedure with less pain, risk, and shorter recovery time. Alternative treatments can also be added to any medical treatment to assist with the discomfort of varicose veins. A regular exercise routine such as walking or swimming, improves muscle tone and increases blood circulation as well as massage. Consult your doctor for different vitamins that aid in the treatment of varicose vein.
Holistic Online, Varicose Veins, www.holisticonline.com
Maria G. Essig, MS, ELS, Varicose Veins, www.webmd.com
Siamak Nabili, MD, MPH, Varicose Veins & Spider Veins, www.medicinenet.com