Varicose Veins: Symptoms, Causes and Risk factors
Varicose veins are enlarged, swollen, and twisted veins. While any superficial vein can be affected, those in the legs are most commonly affected. This is because prolonged standing and walking upright leads to pooling of the blood in the leg veins, increasing pressure in those veins finally leading to varicose veins.
While having varicose veins and spider veins can be embarrassing and a cosmetic issue for some people, others experience pain and discomfort in the legs indicating a more serious underlying medical condition. Varicose veins can be treated through self-care measures or by a doctor for more serious cases.
Causes of Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are caused by weak vein walls and valves. As we all know arteries carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body while veins return the blood to the heart from the parts of the body. To do so, veins must work against gravity. Veins have one-way valves that prevent blood from flowing backward. If these valves are weak or damaged, blood begins to collect in the veins rather than flowing to the heart. So the veins get enlarged, stretched, or twisted.
Sometimes, varicose veins cause no pain. The signs and symptoms include blue or dark purple veins which are twisted, swollen, and bulging.
Some patients however experience
- Aching Legs
- Legs Feeling Heavy
- Swelling, Burning Sensation, and Muscle Cramping neat the ankles
- Itching and Skin discoloration around the affected veins
- More Pain after sitting or standing for a long time
Spider veins are like varicose veins, but they are smaller and closer to the surface of the skin and generally red or blue. They too are found on the legs and sometimes can appear on the face and resemble tree branches or spider webs.
In general more conservative and self-care measures such as exercising or wearing compression stockings can help reduce the pain and prevent the varicose veins from getting worse. But if the symptoms and pain get worsened one should see a doctor.
The potential risk factors include
- Age: The risk of getting varicose veins increases with age, due to wear and tear on vein valves.
- Gender: Varicose veins affect women more often than males. This could be due to the hormonal changes that occur in women during pregnancy, pre-menstruation, or menopause. These hormones relax the vein walls causing the blood to get collected.
- Pregnancy: Women are more likely to develop varicose veins during their pregnancy because pregnant women have much more blood in the body which puts pressure on the circulatory system. As the uterus grows there is more pressure on the veins in the mother’s pelvic area. Hormonal changes during this period also is a risk factor.
- Genetic: Incidence of Varicose veins often runs in the families.
- Obesity: Being overweight increases the risk of varicose veins.
- Nature of the Job: If an individual’s job involves long hours of standing or sitting he is at a higher risk of getting varicose veins.
In the majority of cases, varicose veins have no complications, however, if they occur, they may include
- Ulcers: Painful Ulcers sometimes develop near the ankle with itching and swelling near the affected area. A discolored spot may also be seen around the ulcer.
- Blood Clots: Blood Clots in the veins of the leg cause inflammation of the vein. This condition is called Thrombophlebitis.
- Bleeding: Sometimes veins near the skin may burst to cause bleeding. This however requires medical attention.
Measures can be taken at home to alleviate the pain and prevent the varicose veins from worsening. These include:
- Losing Weight
- Avoiding Prolonged periods of standing or sitting
- Elevating the Legs
- Avoiding High Heels and Tight Hosiery
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