Table of Contents
What is Varicose Veins
Varicose Veins are distended and distorted veins, typically occurring in the legs. Varicose veins indicate dysfunctional venous valves, which allow BLOOD to backflow or to pool in the VEIN when standing or sitting (VENOUS INSUFFICIENCY). There appears to be a GENETIC PREDISPOSITION for varicose veins, in that they seem to run in families. Varicose veins become more common with increasing age, as the blood vessels lose elasticity and other health conditions become contributing factors. Women are more likely than men to develop varicose veins, though men and women who spend a lot of time standing are at increased risk for varicose veins.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
Varicose veins appear enlarged and twisted beneath the skin’s surface, most noticeably on the lower legs. For many people, varicose veins are more of a cosmetic than a health concern. Some people experience leg cramps, soreness, and itching. Severe varicose veins result in extensive blood pooling that can cause changes in SKIN color or skin ulcers (venous stasis ulcers) to develop. Most varicose veins respond to conservative treatment such as frequent elevation to relieve the pressure gravity exerts on blood flow. Regular walking tones and strengthens the muscles of the legs, which then can help to support the veins. The rhythmic movement of the leg muscles during walking also helps push blood through the veins.
Varicose Veins Treatment and Laser Surgery
Treatment for severe varicose veins may include sclerotherapy, in which the doctor injects a chemical into the varicose vein that causes the vein to SCAR and close. Blood reroutes to other veins, and the varicose vein gradually shrinks and fades to become barely noticeable. LASER SURGERY is effective on smaller varicose veins. For large varicose veins that generate significant PAIN or are causing skin ulcers, the doctor may surgically remove the affected veins in a procedure commonly called vein stripping.
Complication of Varicose Veins
The main complication of varicose veins is DEEP VEIN THROMBOSIS (DVT), in which blood clots form in the pooled or slow-moving blood. The clots cause localized pain and swelling, and if they break free can lodge in the LUNGS, causing PULMONARY EMBOLISM, or in the BRAIN, causing STROKE. Preventive measures include frequent walking, wearing low-heeled shoes (which exercise the muscles in the lower leg), shifting the weight from leg to leg and rocking slightly back and forth when standing is necessary, and resting with the legs elevated.