Veins that become abnormally thick, have twists and turns, or are enlarged are called varicose veins. Varicose veins are found to be inherited, and their occurrence becomes more prominent as a person ages. Varicose and spider veins can appear anywhere on the body, but they commonly appear in the pelvis area and the legs.
Varicose veins can be attributed to venous insufficiency, an abnormal circulatory condition that decreases the return of blood from leg veins back to the heart, and pooling of blood in the veins. Usually, unidirectional valves in the vein close to prevent blood from flowing downward due to the effect of gravity. When these valves become weak and do not close properly, they permit blood to flow backward, which is known as ‘reflux.’
Six factors can contribute to or increase the likelihood of developing varicose veins.
Age: Older people are likely to develop varicose veins. As you age, wear and tear can occur on the valves present in the veins, which regulate blood flow. Eventually, the wear will cause valves to permit back flow of blood into the veins, where it gets collected instead of flowing back to the heart.
Sex: Women are more prone to the condition. It can be due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, pre-menstruation, or menopause. This can be because female hormones tend to relax the vein walls.
Pregnancy: Pregnancy causes the volume of blood in the body to increase. This can cause enlarged veins in the legs.
Family history: If other members of the family have varicose veins, there’s a higher probability of you getting varicose veins.
Obesity: An increase in body weight will put more significant pressure on your veins.
Standing or sitting for an extended period: Your blood doesn’t flow as well if you’re in the same position for long periods.”
The following symptoms usually appear before the age of 40 and are symptoms of varicose veins:
- Clustered blue or purple veins that look twisted or swollen
- Swollen ankles, legs, and feet
- Muscle cramps, throbbing, soreness, or aching in the legs or behind the knees
- Legs that feel “heavy” or muscles that feel tired easily
- Itching around the vein
- A brownish discolouration of the skin
- Skin ulcers
If you have one of the above symptoms or more, then you might be looking at a case of varicose veins. Worry not, as varicose veins are usually treated on an outpatient basis, which means that you will not have to be admitted to the hospital or a long recovery. Exercising and avoiding long periods spent in the same position, be it standing or sitting, can ease pain, and prevent symptoms from worsening. High-heels and tight clothing can worsen symptoms, so stay away from these clothing.
Varicose veins must be treated before the symptoms worsen. Treatment can relieve symptoms, improve appearance, and prevent complications such as severe skin ulcers or sores, deep vein thrombosis, skin colour changes, and bleeding.
Bleeding from varicose veins is a medical emergency. Varicose veins, when left untreated, have a higher than usual risk of a spontaneous rupture and bleeding. Varicose veins grow larger over time, and as the vein wall stretches out, they weaken. Untreated varicose veins can cause blood pools that result in skin discolouration or hyper pigmentation. Hyper pigmentation is the permanent darkening of the skin that can lead to additional symptoms, including eczema, restlessness, nocturnal leg cramps, numbness, tingling, painful ulcers, swelling, and even bleeding from the legs.
Varicose veins can themselves be a symptom of another underlying skin disease, one of which is Lipo dermatosclerosis, which is the change in the skin of the lower legs. The exact underlying cause is unknown; however, it appears to be associated with venous insufficiency and/or obesity. Risk factors include age, smoking, family history, pre-existing varicose veins, previous trauma to the venous system (e.g., vein stripping, non-surgical trauma, etc.), history of deep vein thrombosis, obesity, and lifestyle choices (e.g., standing occupations, sedentary lifestyle, etc.).
Compression therapy using bandaging or graduated compression hosiery is essential to the treatment of varicose veins and Lipo dermatosclerosis. Compression therapy is done by applying regulated pressure to the surface veins, keeping their diameter small, and forcing the blood back into the deep vein system. This, in turn, pushes the blood uphill towards the heart, which aids in the healing of active ulcers and in preventing ulcer recurrences.
Management of varicose veins can be done at home, but it is essential to visit the doctor as the condition does not go away on itself and does require some form of treatment in order to cure the signs.
- Exercise: Without excessive strain on the muscles, low-impact exercise can alleviate the symptoms and reduce the pain caused by varicose veins. A cardiovascular activity like taking a walk, swimming, cycling, and yoga are all good exercises to help manage varicose veins.
- Compression stockings: In a 2018 medical study, it was found that people who used knee-high compression stockings for a week reported lesser pain and aching associated with varicose veins. These stockings are available in most pharmacies and online medical stores.
- Weight loss: Cutting down on foods that contain Sodium and instead including Potassium in your diet can help reduce water retention, which will cause you to shed a few kilos. Include foods that will reduce the pressure on veins by preventing you from becoming overweight, like foods having a high content of fiber (nuts, oats, legumes, whole-grain foods) and Potassium (potatoes, leafy vegetables, salmon and tuna).
- Non-restrictive clothing: Replacing high heels with flat shoes may help with varicose veins in the legs. Tight-fitting clothing can cause the restriction of blood flow to the legs.
- Keeping legs elevated: Preferably at the heart’s level or above, this will reduce the pressure on the leg veins, and due to gravity, the blood will flow smoothly back to the heart.
- Being mobile: Change your position frequently and avoid sitting for long periods. Never sit cross-legged, as it can restrict blood flow to the legs and feet, affecting circulation.
- Massage: Avoid pressing directly on the veins, as this may cause nearby fragile tissue to get damaged. You can use massage oils and gently massage the affected area to help the blood to keep moving.
To conclude, it is essential that varicose veins must be attended to by a doctor, to prevent the condition from worsening. The symptoms can be reduced through household remedies that can help manage the pain and discomfort caused by this condition. Lifestyle and dietary changes can help one deal with varicose veins.
Dr. Abhilash Sandhyala is a well-known specialist and one of the top vascular surgeons in Hyderabad. He has successfully treated varicose veins for 5,000+ patients. Dr. Abhilash has 4+ years of experience in performing the EVLT procedure.
You can visit him at Flow Vascular clinic at H.No: 2-22-298/2/A, Sree Krishna Diagnostic Center Building, 2nd Floor, Beside Kalamandir, KPHB Main Road, Kukatpally, Hyderabad. You can also book an appointment on https://drabhilash.com/book-an-appointment/ or call on (+91) 99896 49498, 99590 33037.
Visit this website to know more about varicose veins and treatment options.