Enlarged Veins – What Are The Treatments For Varicose Veins?
Some medical conditions not related to skin seem to be ugly and unhealthy at appearance, but they can be effectively treated. Varicose vein is one of those conditions. Let’s know all about varicose veins.
Also known as varicosities or varicoses, varicose veins is a condition in which the veins of the body become enlarged, twisted or dilated and overfilled with blood. Varicose veins is often a painful condition and appears as swollen, having a bluish-purple or reddish tint.
What causes varicose veins?
Varicose veins happen when the veins in the body are not functioning appropriately. Basically, arteries carry blood from heart to the rest of the body while veins do the reverse i.e. carrying blood from the capillaries in the body back to the heart. This process is necessary for recirculation of the blood. During the process of returning the blood to the heart, the veins, especially in the legs must work effectively against the gravity.
Veins have one-way valves that prevent the blood from flowing backward. If these valves fail or are weak, the circulation gets disturbed and the blood then start accumulating in the veins, hence making them enlarged.
Some of the possible causes or risk factors of varicose veins include:
Varicose veins in pregnancy
Pregnancy is a high risk factor of varicose veins. As the uterus grows, it normally puts pressure on the large vein on the right side of the body. This also increases pressure in the veins of the leg. Secondly, the amount of blood in the body increases in pregnancy, adding more burden on the veins. Besides, the increase in progesterone level relaxes the blood vessels and can open up or dilate the veins.
For prevention, following can be done during pregnancy:
- Avoid wearing high heels that foster healthy blood circulation
- Avoid tight hosiery that would cut off blood circulation
- Wear compression stockings
- Elevate your legs and change position regularly while sitting and standing
- Reduce sodium intake to avoid swelling
- Keep yourself hydrated
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How common is varicose veins?
Varicose veins is a common condition in older adults, especially in women. It is estimated that women are twice as likely to get varicose veins as compared to men. In most of the cases, varicose veins occur in the lower leg.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
The primary or the most visible symptom of varicose veins include dark purple or bluish veins that appears as bulging. Other symptoms may include:
- Achy leg or heavy feeling in leg
- Increase in pain after standing or sitting for a long time
- Burning sensation, muscle cramp and swelling in the leg
- Itching around one or more veins
In some cases, the veins can become hardened while the skin can get inflamed. In some severe cases, skin ulcers can form near the ankle which means you need immediate medical attention.
Diagnostic procedure for varicose veins
The doctor will be first examining your legs and visible veins, especially when you sit or stand. He will further ask you about any symptoms such as pain or aching in the leg. He would then order some tests to confirm the condition. These include:
- Ultrasound - Through this test, the doctor would want to check the flow of blood in the veins or if there is evidence of some blood clot. In this non-invasive test, the doctor or technician will run a small hand held device known as transducer on the skin of the affected area. This device transmits the images of the veins in the legs onto a monitor.
- Venogram - This test further assesses the condition of veins. During this procedure, a special dye is inserted into the legs to take X-ray of that area. This helps the doctor get better view of the flowing blood.
Treatment options for varicose veins
When it comes to treating varicose veins, doctors are a little conservative. They would first try to treat the disease by advising you to make changes in your lifestyle. If these fail, then they might suggest some aggressive treatments.
Lifestyle changes include
- Exercise regularly to encourage proper blood flow
- Keep an eye on your weight
- Take diet low in salt to prevent swelling caused by water retention
- Improve blood circulation in the legs by lying down with your legs resting on 2-3 pillows
- Avoid prolong sitting or standing
- Avoid sitting with your legs crossed
The doctor might also advise you to wear special compression socks. These compression socks put pressure on your legs for better blood flow and to reduce swelling.
If your lifestyle changes fail to bring forth any favorable results, then surgery is the only option. Today, with the advancement of technology, there are now less-invasive treatment options available such as:
In this procedure, a liquid or foam chemical is injected to block the affected veins and seal them. The blood flow is then redirected to the unaffected veins. Over the time, the body automatically absorbs the damaged vein.
This technique is used to close smaller varicose veins. The best part of this surgical procedure is that it doesn’t require any needles and incision. Just strong burst of light is send onto the affected vein which slowly causes it to fade and disappear.
Endovenous radiofrequency ablation
Under this ultrasound guided procedure, a radiofrequency catheter is inserted into the veins. Through this catheter, radiofrequency waves are sent to close off the veins.
This is an outpatient procedure that doesn’t require you to stay overnight in hospital. The surgery removes the smaller veins by making tiny incisions in the skin overlying varicose veins. Only a part of the leg is anesthetized or numbed in this method.
Endoscopic vein surgery
This surgery is needed in more advanced case where ulcers are formed in the leg. The surgeon will insert a micro camera into the leg to have a close look at varicose veins and seal it. He will then remove the veins by making small incisions. This one too is an outpatient procedure.
Women who develop varicose veins during pregnancy generally will not require any treatment as this condition will resolve on its own within 3-12 months after delivery. Also the surgical procedure will depend on the symptoms, size and location of varicose vein. So always talk to your doctor before choosing the best treatment option and explore risks associated with it.
The fact is that making changes in lifestyle changes will not work in most of the cases. So, varicose vein get worse over the time. Though varicose veins don’t cause any long term medical problems, yet complications such as ulcers, blood clots and rupturing of the veins are enough to raise eyebrows.
So talk to a vascular surgeon who specializes in conditions of the blood vessels and get yourself back on the track.
1. Varicose veins: Overview(2016, July 13) read more
2. Varicose Veins in the Legs: The Diagnosis and Management of Varicose Veins(2013, July) read more
3. Prevention of poor blood flow in the veins in a standing worker population(2013, October 15) read more
4. Injection sclerotherapy for varicose veins(2006, October 18) read more
5. Leopardi D, et al.(2009, March).Systematic review of treatments for varicose veins read more