Varicose veins appear as discoloured, swollen, dark, and bulging veins on the lower legs. Some people may think that the appearance of these veins is a cosmetic problem and there is not nothing they can do about it. However, in reality, more serious problems can occur from varicose veins if these are not treated timely. Although no cure exists for varicose veins, their appearance can be reduced with treatment and the risk of complications associated with them can be decreased as well.
The Causes Behind Varicose Veins
The vascular structure of veins is very thin. The muscles present in the surroundings and the one-way valves present in veins help the blood to flow in a single direction that is towards the heart. These valves close to prevent the blood from flowing back. When the elasticity of veins decreases, they become more dilated and weaken the valves. The deterioration of these valves results in varicose veins because when the valves are not able to control the flow of blood in a single direction, it allows the downhill flow of blood, and the ultimate consequence is the pooling of blood in the legs.
When the blood does not flow from one valve to the next, it starts to accumulate in the vein elevating the venous pressure. This also increases the chances of congestion while making the veins appear twisted and bulging. Because the muscle support is less for superficial veins in comparison to deep veins, there is more likelihood of them developing varicose.
Varicose veins can also result from any condition that increases pressure on the abdomen or legs such as obesity, pregnancy, or standing for long times. Also, tumors and chronic constipation can be a cause. Moreover, if a person remains sedentary for long periods, his out-of-use muscles will pump less blood, ultimately causing varicose veins. With age, veins weaken and increase the likelihood of varicose veins, as do the family history as well. Damage to the valves in case of a leg injury can also cause varicose.
The Symptoms of Varicose Veins
A person can only have one symptom or several at a time. They don’t need to be all of the exact same size or same appearance. Common symptoms may include the appearance of purplish, bluish, or pinkish veins that are twisted or bulging under the skin.
A person may experience rash or itching near the varicose veins. Other symptoms may be pain in the legs, discomfort or tenderness near veins, or superficial bruising in small areas near the veins that should heal in a few days. The appearance of varicose veins is common in legs but can also develop on any other body part.
When do Varicose Veins become dangerous?
When health problems such as bleeding veins, supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), deep vein thrombosis (DVT), lipodermatosclerosis, and venous ulcers worsen from Varicose veins then it becomes dangerous. In case of an accident, the varicose veins near the skin surface may get ruptured, causing them to bleed. Excessive bleeding can become life-threatening. In SVT, there is an increase in the heart rate because of aberrant electrical impulses and it affects the flow of blood throughout the body. To compensate for it, the heart requires veins and arteries to work together but varicose veins make this difficult.
Who is more at risk?
The occurrence of varicose veins in women is higher than in men, especially for women with multiple pregnancies and women of older age. The primary reason is hormones. Progesterone is the key hormone that is related to varicose veins. The fluctuating levels of progesterone affect the strength of venous walls. Progesterone relaxes the walls making them weak. The flow of blood through the weak veins results in blood accumulation in the lower extremities.
Diagnosis of Varicose Veins
Physical examination is usually carried out by a doctor to diagnose varicose veins. The doctor will examine the legs for swelling while a person is standing up. He might ask the person to describe the pain in the legs. Additionally, a doctor may also order a Doppler test or a colour duplex ultrasound scan.
A Doppler test checks the flow of blood, assessing the working condition of the valves in veins. This test also checks for any obstructions or clots in the veins. A colour duplex ultrasound scan provides colourful images of the vein structure that helps the doctor in the identification of any abnormalities in the veins. The speed of blood flow through the veins is also measured by this scan.
Varicose veins and Spider veins: Are they the same?
Both varicose veins and spider veins are venous insufficiencies that cause the veins to become visible beneath the skin. Both of them can develop on legs and therefore often create confusion for people experiencing them. But for seeking treatment, it is important to know the difference between the two. There are distinct differences between the two to consider them as the same ailment.
- Varicose veins appear bumpy and twisted while spider veins appear in smooth clusters.
- Varicose veins are larger but spider veins are thin and have a branching web-like appearance.
- The appearance of spider veins is not as noticeable as the varicose veins.
- Varicose veins can also develop in deep veins but spider veins are present only on the skin’s surface.
- The varicose veins can be due to genetic reasons but spider veins are simply an aesthetic non-threatening issue.
Treatment of Varicose Veins
If a person suffering from varicose veins does not show any symptoms or report any discomfort or the sight of bulging veins does not bother them then there might not be a need for any treatment. Nonetheless, if a person is exhibiting symptoms and experiencing discomfort and pain, treatment might be necessary to address the complications such as skin discoloration, leg ulcers, or swelling.
Surgical intervention may be necessary if varicose veins have a larger size. The procedure is usually carried out by putting the patient under general anesthesia. Mostly, patients are discharged on the same day but need to spend a night at the hospital, if surgery is performed on both legs.
Ligation and Stripping
In this method, the affected vein is tied off before it joins any deep vein and removed through an incision. A cut is made near the groin of the patient exactly at top of the target vein and the second incision is made down the leg either at the knee or the ankle. Then the doctor ties and seals the top of the vein and from the bottom, a flexible thin wire is threaded and then retreated along with the vein. Hospital stay might not be required with this method. This method may result in pain, bleeding, or bruising, and in very rare cases, it may result in deep vein thrombosis.
Some patients prefer minimally invasive treatment options and can benefit from any one of the following:
In the Sclerotherapy method, a chemical solution or foam is introduced into varicose veins with the help of an injection. The chemical causes scarring in the veins and reroutes the blood flow to the healthier veins. The surrounding tissue reabsorbs the collapsed vein and treated veins fade within a few weeks. In some cases, the procedure needs to be carried out more than once but when done correctly, produces effective results.
In this method, heat is created with the help of radiofrequency and this heat is sent into veins using a catheter (a narrow tube). The heat causes the tissues in the vein to scar and the scar blocks the flow of blood in the varicose vein. Radiofrequency ablation is preferred for varicose veins of larger size and is carried out with a local anesthetic.
In this procedure, the doctor makes small incisions in the skin through which small veins are removed. Only the part of the leg on which the procedure will be carried out is placed under local anesthesia. The scarring after this treatment is minimum.
It is another minimally invasive treatment in which strong light bursts are sent into the affected vein causing the formation of scar tissue that closes the varicose vein.
Simple Laser Treatment
This procedure is non-invasive and carried out on the outer surface of the skin to treat small varicose veins. This option is most suitable for patients who are not comfortable with injection needles.
The appearance of varicose veins should not be taken lightly. The absence of any pain can result in dismissing varicose veins as an annoyance. But only swelling and cramping can lead to serious health issues. Whether you have been diagnosed with Varicose veins or you suspect that you might have it, you can book a consultation at our clinic. Our highly professional dermatologist will help you to select the most suitable minimally invasive treatment option for varicose veins benefiting both medical and cosmetic purposes. Our clinic offers YAG Vein Reduction, Sclerotherapy, Endo Venous Laser Ablation (EVLA), and Microphlebectomy for treating varicose veins. Book a consultation today!