Have you ever noticed swollen and large veins on your legs? These are Varicose veins. They are green or purple-coloured veins that appear on legs and feet.
Varicose veins occur due to the abnormality in the functioning of the valves in the veins, which obstructs the blood flow. Varicose veins do not need any treatment if they are painless.
But if you experience pain and discomfort, there is help at hand. Varicose veins can be treated through Vascular surgery, Ligation and stripping, Sclerotherapy, Radiofrequency ablation, Endovenous laser treatment, and Transilluminated Powered Phlebectomy.
Before we discuss the treatment options, let us understand the symptoms and causes of Varicose veins.
What are the symptoms of Varicose Veins?
The first symptom of varicose veins is the veins on the legs and feet look swollen and bulging. Their colour may also change to purple, green, or blue.
Other Symptoms of the disorder are
- Constant ache in the legs
- Legs feeling bulky after vigorous activity or at night
- Excessive bleeding
- Skin shrinking due to the fat becoming hard
- Swelling in the ankles
- Spider veins
- Skin discolouration around the varicose veins
- Venous eczema
- Restless leg syndrome
- Leg cramps while changing positions from sitting to standing
Most patients with varicose veins do not need any treatment. But if there is pain or if the symptoms are severe, then the doctor may prescribe the removal of varicose veins through vascular surgery or other mode depending on the condition of the patient.
What are the causes of Varicose Veins?
Veins consist of one-way valves, allowing blood flow in a single direction. If these valves get weaker, they become damaged and start leaking blood in the opposite direction. This results in the blood pooling inside the veins, which makes them swollen and bulging.
Some risk factors that increase the risk of the disease are;
- Age – Ageing is one of the most common risk factors of the disease. As we age, the valves in our veins get weaker due to wear and tear. This may cause the valves to leak and accumulate blood, which results in swollen and bulging veins.
- Gender – Women are at an increased risk of developing varicose veins. A number of factors, such as pregnancy, hormones, birth control pills, etc. increase their risk.
- Family history – If your close family members have varicose veins, there is a high chance that you will develop them too.
- Obesity – Extra weight puts unwanted pressure on the veins and causes wear and tear.
- Lack of activity – Sitting or standing in the same position for a long duration restricts the blood flow and the risk of varicose veins is increased.
If you encounter any of the risk factors, it is advisable to consult a vascular specialist and get a proper diagnosis.
Can we prevent Varicose Veins?
There are no sure shot measures to prevent the development of Varicose Veins. But there are some measures to reduce the risk or delay the process of developing Varicose Veins.
Some measures that reduce the risk are;
- Regular exercise to maintain the muscle tone and improve circulation
- Eating a diet rich in fibre and low in salt
- Taking steps to prevent obesity
- Women should avoid wearing tight hosiery and stilettoes
- Changing positions regularly and remaining active throughout the day
- Keeping your legs elevated
These measures will improve the circulation in your legs and protect the veins from wear and tear.
What are the tests to diagnose Varicose Veins?
The process of diagnosis of Varicose veins includes a physical examination, taking note of family history and medical history, and sometimes an ultrasound scan to detect blood clots in the veins. The entire process is noninvasive and painless.
How are Varicose Veins treated?
Varicose veins generally do not need any treatment. Taking some general measures such as exercising regularly, weight reduction, not wearing tight clothes, changing positions regularly can reduce the pain and discomfort.
If these measures do not provide a positive effect, the vascular specialist may suggest wearing compression stockings. These stockings squeeze the legs gently and help the veins to move blood efficiently.
The strength of compression is prescribed by the doctor, depending on the condition of the patient.
The last resort to treat varicose veins is to remove them through a variety of procedures such as
- Vascular surgery – If the varicose veins are painful and large, they must be removed surgically. The vascular surgery to remove varicose veins is done under general anaesthesia. Patients can usually go home on the same day or may be asked to spend a night at the hospital.
- Sclerotherapy – This treatment is suitable for small and medium-sized veins. A chemical that scars the veins and closes them is injected into the varicose veins. The varicose vein may fade and return to normal within a few weeks. This procedure does not need anaesthesia and can be done on an outpatient basis.
- Laser Treatment – Laser treatment is a new technology to close varicose veins. This treatment is also effective for spider veins. Strong bursts of light are sent onto the vein through the laser, which makes the veins to slowly disappear. Laser treatment is non-invasive and painless.
Your doctor may suggest other forms of vascular surgery such as endoscopic vein surgery, high ligation, and vein stripping, etc. depending on the size of the varicose veins and the severity of the symptoms.