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What are varicose veins?

varicose-veins

Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins. Any superficial vein may become varicosed, but the veins most commonly affected are those in your legs. That’s because standing and walking upright increases the pressure in the veins of your lower body.

For many people, varicose veins and spider veins — a common, mild variation of varicose veins — are simply a cosmetic concern. For other people, varicose veins can cause aching pain and discomfort. Sometimes varicose veins lead to more serious problems.

Treatment may involve self-care measures or procedures by your doctor to close or remove veins

Symptoms of Varicose Veins:

Varicose veins may not cause any pain. Signs you may have varicose veins include:

  • Veins that are dark purple or blue in color
  • Veins that appear twisted and bulging; they are often like cords on your legs
  • When painful signs and symptoms occur, they may include:
  • An achy or heavy feeling in your legs
  • Burning, throbbing, muscle cramping and swelling in your lower legs
  • Worsened pain after sitting or standing for a long time
  • Itching around one or more of your veins
  • Skin discoloration around a varicose vein

Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but they’re smaller. Spider veins are found closer to the skin’s surface and are often red or blue.

Spider veins occur on the legs, but can also be found on the face. They vary in size and often look like a spider’s web.

Treating and preventing varicose veins

In general, doctors are conservative when treating varicose veins. You’ll probably be advised to make changes to your lifestyle, instead of trying more aggressive treatments.

Lifestyle changes

The following changes may help prevent varicose veins from forming or becoming worse:

  • Avoid standing for extended periods of time.
  • Lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise to improve your circulation.
  • Use compression socks or stockings.

If you already have varicose veins, you should take these steps to prevent new varicose veins. You should also elevate your legs whenever you’re resting or sleeping.

Compression:

Your doctor may advise you to wear special compression socks or stockings. These place enough pressure on your legs so that blood can flow more easily to your heart. They also decrease swelling.

The level of compression varies, but most types of compression stockings are available in drugstores or medical supply stores.

Surgery

If lifestyle changes aren’t working, or if your varicose veins are causing a lot of pain or damaging your overall health, your doctor might try an invasive procedure.

Vein ligation and stripping is a surgical treatment that requires anesthesia. During the procedure, your surgeon makes cuts in your skin, cuts the varicose vein, and removes it through the incisions. Although updated variations of vein-stripping surgeries have been developed, they are less commonly performed because newer, less invasive options are available.

Other treatment options

Currently, a wide variety of minimally invasive treatment options for varicose veins are available. These include:

  • sclerotherapy, using a liquid or foam chemical injection to block off a larger vein
  • microsclerotherapy, using a liquid chemical injection to block off smaller veins
  • laser surgery, using light energy to block off a vein
  • endovenous ablation therapy, using heat and radiofrequency waves to block off a vein
  • endoscopic vein surgery, using a small lighted scope inserted through a small incision to block off a vein

You should always talk to your doctor about your treatment options and the risks before choosing a method. The method recommended can depend on your symptoms, size, and location of the varicose vein.

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