varicose veins can occur in any part of the body, although they are mostly found on the legs. This is due to the pressure that walking and standing exerts on the lower body veins. Varicose veins often present as discoloured, lumpy, and bulging veins, sometimes they can be invisible and deep in the body. For the majority, varicose veins are just a cosmetic concern. For others, they can cause pain and constant discomfort that may require medical attention.
What causes varicose veins?
Weak or damaged valves cause varicose veins. When arteries transport blood from the heart to the rest of the body, it’s the role of the veins to carry this blood back to the heart for recirculation. For the veins to do this efficiently, they need to act against gravity. If the valves in the veins are weak or damaged, they cause blood to flow backward or collect in the veins, causing them to twist or stretch, resulting in varicose veins. Although anybody can get varicose veins, certain things increase the risk. They include age, gender, obesity, pregnancy, having a relative with varicose veins, or standing for long periods.
Symptoms of varicose veins range from one person to another. The symptoms worsen during the warm weather, later hours of the day, or after standing up for an extended period. Walking around or raising legs usually relieves some of the symptoms. The most common symptoms include the following:
- Discoloured veins that appear dark purple or blue
- Twisted and bulging veins
- Aching in the legs
- A general feeling of heaviness or fatigue in the legs
- Swelling in the feet or ankles
- Burning or throbbing in the lower leg
- Itching around one or several veins
- Muscle cramps, especially at night
Varicose veins pain
The leg pain caused by varicose veins is often described as heavy or deep. The intensity varies, with some people experiencing minimal pain and others very severe pain. One condition that leads to pain is called phlebitis, which happens when varicose veins become inflamed and blood clots form. You may experience pain, hardness, heat, and discoloration on the affected area if this happens.
Varicose veins are rarely a serious problem and don’t require treatment if they are not causing any symptoms. However, visit a doctor if your varicose veins are sore or if they are causing pain, itching, and discomfort in your legs. The doctor will examine your legs and ask you to describe the pain and discomfort you’ve been feeling to help in their assessment. They may refer you to a vascular specialist who will conduct a duplex ultrasound scan to ascertain the condition of your varicose veins and recommend the best treatment plan.
Although rare, varicose veins can lead to a few complications, including ulcers, blood clots, and bleeding. Painful ulcers may appear near the affected area and are usually preceded by a discoloured area. Blood clots may manifest through pain and swelling and will usually require a further medical examination.
Prevention and treatment
For most people, varicose veins do not require any treatment. While they might look unpleasant, they rarely pose any long-term health risks. However, if treatment is necessary, the doctor may recommend either medical procedure or self-care measures. Medical hospital procedures include sclerotherapy, endothermal ablation, or litigation and stripping. Self-care measures to treat varicose veins include:
- Using compression stockings
- Change in diet
- Avoiding standing for long periods
- Watching your weight
- Elevating your legs
Alongside these self-care measures, the doctor may also prescribe painkillers, anti-inflammatories, or blood thinners to prevent clots. While there is no way to permanently prevent varicose veins, improving circulation and muscle tone may minimise your risk of getting varicose veins.
Since most varicose veins do not pose a serious health threat, if they are not causing any discomfort, there is no need to see a doctor. However, if they are causing any form of concern, visit the doctor for an evaluation. Remember, sometimes varicose veins can be invisible, so if you experience swelling, aching, or fatigue in your leg, you should see the doctor for a medical diagnosis.
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