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Varicose Veins

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Varicose veins are a common problem that may run in families. This condition usually affects the legs and ankles.

What are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins that occur due to weakening of veins and valves present in the legs. These veins are very common in the legs and ankles as pressure builds up in the leg veins due to standing and walking. Also, pregnant and old people are more prone to developing varicose veins.

This condition is not serious, but may lead to complications in some people. Many people miss their appearance as it does not lead to pain initially. For most people it is more of a cosmetic problem than a medical problem.

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

Many people do not develop any kind of symptoms other than the appearance of varicose veins. Symptoms that may develop include:

  • Appearance of veins that are deep purplish blue in color
  • Veins look large, twisted in the legs
  • Pain or dull ache in legs
  • Muscle cramps
  • Swelling in the lower legs
  • Pain that worsens with prolonged sitting  or standing
  • Itching, redness in area of varicose veins
  • Ankle swells up, especially in the evening

Causes of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins occur in veins that lie just below the skin. They are present superficially over muscles and become visible when enlarged. This occurs when the valves present in these veins begin to leak. This causes the deoxygenated blood flowing towards the heart to flow back and become stagnated in the legs. As the veins become weak, they cannot pump the blood against gravity towards the heart. The valves cannot prevent the back flow and thus, leading to twisted, engorged veins in the lower limbs.

The causes of varicose veins include:

  • Standing for a long time
  • Family history, that is, hereditary
  • Obesity
  • Aging
  • Sitting cross legged at the ankles or knees for a long time
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • A blood clot present in the deep veins of the leg
  • Injury to the leg
  • Tumor in the abdomen or pelvic region that causes pressure to build up in the veins of the lower legs

Diagnosis of Varicose Veins

Diagnosis is based on the appearance of veins on legs. The doctor will also check for skin discoloration, open sores, swelling, etc. on legs. If he suspects deep vein thrombosis, he may conduct more tests.

Treatment of Varicose Veins

Even though one may not suffer from severe symptoms, treatment is very important in case of varicose veins. The condition may worsen without treatment and management. Some of the treatment methods include:

  • Elevation of the legs when sitting or sleeping to reduce the swelling and pain
  • Flex legs frequently, especially when standing for a long time
  • Wear compression stockings that help in squeezing the veins and preventing back flow of blood.
  • In some cases Sclerotherapy is advised where a medicine is injected into the veins. This medicine helps in shrinking the enlarged veins
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen helps in reducing the pain.
  • In some cases, surgical treatment like stripping, that is, surgical removal of veins is carried out.

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Prognosis of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins is a condition that requires treatment, without which it will not be controlled. If not treated, it leads to deep vein thrombosis, skin ulcers and even may lead to the life threatening condition- pulmonary embolism. Thus, the prognosis is better only if the patient follows the treatment advised and takes care.

If one observes deep purplish veins appearing on their legs and feet, they should seek medical advise immediately. Many times, varicose veins may be a symptom of other underlying health condition.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: June 14, 2015