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Varicose veins


Disease: Varicose veins Varicose veins
Category: Cardiovascular diseases

Disease Definition:

Gnarled and enlarged veins are called varicose veins. Although the veins of the legs and feet are the most commonly affected ones because the pressure in the veins of the lower body is increased by walking and standing upright, but any vein could become varicose. While for several people varicose veins and spider veins, which is a common mild variation of varicose veins, are simply a cosmetic concern; but for others, aching pain and discomfort could result from varicose veins. Varicose veins might signal an increased risk of other circulatory problems, and its treatment might involve self-care measures or procedures by the doctor to close or remove veins. Occasionally, varicose veins could lead to more serious problems.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


Often, varicose veins don’t cause any pain. Signs indicating that a person has varicose veins include:

  • Veins that seem twisted and bulging, usually like cords on the legs
  • Veins that are dark purple or blue in color


Varicose veins might also form in other places such as the legs, from the groin to the ankle. In case painful signs and symptoms take place, they might include:

  • Worsened pain after sitting or standing for a long time
  • Itching around one or more of the veins
  • An achy or heavy feeling in the legs
  • Skin ulcers near the ankle that might mean that the person has a severe form of vascular disease that needs medical attention.
  • Throbbing, burning, muscle cramping and swelling in the lower legs


Spider veins are found closer to the skin’s surface and are usually red or blue. They resemble varicose veins but are smaller. Although they can be found on the face, but they usually occur on the legs. Resembling a spider’s web, spider veins differ in size.
The pain resulting from varicose veins can be eased by self-care measures such as exercise, elevating the legs or wearing compression stockings, and these measures can prevent the veins from getting worse. A doctor should be consulted if these measures haven't stopped the condition from getting worse and if the patient is concerned about how the veins look and feel.


Blood is carried from the heart to the rest of the tissues by arteries. For the blood to recirculate, veins have to return it from the rest of the body to the heart. The veins in the legs must work against gravity to return blood to the heart. While elastic vein walls help blood return to the heart, muscle contractions in the lower legs act as pumps. Tiny valves in the veins open as blood flows toward the heart then shut to prevent blood from flowing backward. Some of the factors that may cause varicose veins are:



Veins lose elasticity and become stretched as a person gets older. The valves in the veins might get weak, allowing blood to flow backward whereas it should be moving toward the heart. Blood pools in the veins and the veins enlarge and turn to varicose. Since the veins contain deoxygenated blood that is in the process of being re-circulated through the lungs, they appear blue.



Varicose veins tend to develop in some pregnant women. Changes in the hormone during pregnancy might play a role in forming varicose veins. Pregnancy decreases the flow of blood from the legs to the pelvis, but it also increases the volume of blood in the body.  This circulatory change is planned to support the growing fetus, but it could produce an unfortunate side effect, enlarged veins in the legs. During late pregnancy, when the uterus exerts greater pressure on the veins in the legs, varicose veins might either surface for the first time or get worse. Within three months after delivery, varicose veins that have developed during pregnancy usually improve without medical treatment.


A high risk of growing varicose veins result from the following factors:



The older a person gets the higher the risk is to develop varicose veins, for varicose veins occur most often in people in their 30s to 70s. Wear and tear on the valves in the veins that help regulate blood flow is caused by aging. Finally, that wear causes the valves to allow blood to flow back in the veins where it collects instead of flowing up to the heart.



Men are less likely to develop varicose veins. Female hormones tend to relax vein walls. Therefore effective factors could be hormonal changes throughout pregnancy, premenstruation or menopause. A higher risk of varicose veins occurs when taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.



In case other family members had varicose veins, there is a greater chance that the person in question will too.


Standing for long periods of time: 

When remaining in the same position for a long time, blood doesn’t flow as well.



Being overweight adds up pressure on the veins, causing varicose veins.



Varicose veins rarely have complications, if they occur, they may include the following:



Especially near the ankles, ulcers that are extremely painful might form on the skin near varicose veins. Ulcers are the result of long-term fluid buildup in these tissues, caused by increased pressure of blood within affected veins. Before an ulcer forms, a brown colored stain often appears on the skin. In case someone suspects that he/she has developed an ulcer, a doctor should be consulted immediately.


Blood clots:

Sometimes, veins get enlarged deep within the legs. The affected leg might become swollen considerably in this case. Urgent medical attention is required for any leg swelling because it may indicate a blood clot, the medical term for which is thrombophlebitis.


A long uncomfortable recovery or a hospital stay isn’t required in the treatment of varicose veins.
In general, varicose veins could be treated on an outpatient basis, thanks to less invasive procedures. Compression stockings might help easing pain and preventing varicose veins from worsening, just as self-care does, including exercising, elevating the legs, losing weight, not wearing tight clothes and avoiding long periods of sitting or standing.



Compression stockings are worn all day. To help veins and leg muscles move blood more efficiently, they steadily squeeze the legs. The amount of compression differs by brand and kind. Usually compression stockings are the initial treatment method tried before moving on to other treatments. Stockings include various styles, strengths and colors. With the variety offered, the person would likely find a stocking that he/she is comfortable with. Compression stockings are found in medical supply stores and pharmacies. Prescription-strength stockings could also be found. The person or the pharmacist could measure the legs using a tape measure to ensure the person is getting the right size and fit according to the size chart found on the stocking package. In the case of having weak hands or arthritis, it might be difficult getting these stockings on, but there are devices that make wearing them easier. Compression stockings should be strong but not necessarily tight. The doctor might advise one of these varicose vein treatments in case the person doesn’t respond to self-care, compression stockings, or when the person’s condition is more severe. These treatments include:



Sclerotherapy doesn’t need anesthesia and could be done in the doctor’s office. In this process, small and medium sized varicose veins are injected with a solution, which scars and closes those veins. In a few weeks, varicose veins that are treated should fade away. When done correctly, sclerotherapy is effective; however, the same vein may sometimes need to be injected more than once.


Laser surgeries: 

In order to close off smaller varicose veins and spider veins, new technologies in laser treatments are used nowadays. No incisions or needles are required in this method. Laser surgery works by sending strong bursts of light onto the vein making it slowly fade and disappear.


Catheter-assisted procedures:

In this procedure, a thin tube (catheter) with a heated tip is inserted into an enlarged vein. The heat destroys the vein as the catheter is pulled out resulting in its collapsing and sealing shut. Larger varicose veins are usually treated with this procedure.


Vein stripping: 

This is an outpatient procedure for most people. It involves removing a long vein through small incisions. Deeper veins in the leg take care of the larger volumes of blood which is why removing the vein won’t affect circulation in the leg.


Ambulatory phlebectomy:

In general, this procedure causes minimal scarring. Only the parts of the leg that are being pricked are numbed and smaller varicose veins are removed through a series of tiny skin punctures.


Endoscopic vein surgery:

A thin video camera is inserted in the leg to visualize and close varicose veins. Those veins are removed through small incisions. This procedure is performed on an outpatient basis. A person with an advanced case that involves leg ulcers may need this procedure.


When it comes to treatment alternatives for varicose veins, the person should consult a doctor about any health risks and possible side effects before undergoing any procedure. Treatments nowadays for varicose veins and spider veins are effective. Still, varicose veins have the possibility of recurring.


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