Varicose veins refer to swollen, enlarged, and twisting veins, which usually appear dark purple or blue. Although any vein can become varicose, the condition mostly affects the veins found in your feet and legs. This is because walking and standing raise pressure in the veins of your legs and feet. In most cases, varicose veins are less serious and harmless. However, they can cause discomfort and distress.
The Cause of Varicose Veins
Varicose veins result from the abnormal function of your leg or pelvic veins. During the blood circulation, the blood that enters your feet returns to the heart. The veins in the legs contain valves that open and close one way in order to allow the blood flow to the heart without flowing backwards. Any damage to these valves due to diseases or other conditions causes them to malfunction, causing the blood to flow backwards. When this happens, varicose veins occur.
The veins stretch and bulge outwards since the blood in the varicose veins fails to move properly. The deoxygenated blood in the veins causes them to appear blue or dark purple; hence, varicose veins appear as such.
Although the exact cause of damaged or weakened vein valves is still not clearly known, certain obvious risk factors may increase your chances of developing varicose veins. The risk factors include:
Your chances of developing varicose veins as a woman are higher than if you were a man. This is because female hormones can stretch the walls of the veins, resulting in valve leakage.
Pregnancy raises your body’s blood volume while reducing the flow of the blood in your legs to the pelvic area at the same time. This strains your leg veins, leading to varicose veins. Additionally, pregnancy triggers the body to produce more hormones. As the increased levels of hormones circulate around the body, they cause stretching in vein valves, leading to varicose veins.
Excess body weight exerts abnormal pressure on the veins, causing the valves to stretch and form varicose veins.
4. Genetic Factors
You are likely to develop varicose veins if your close family member, including your parent has varicose veins. The condition runs in the blood.
5. Old Age
The elasticity of your veins diminishes with age, causing the valves to weaken. Weak valves allow the blood to flow backwards, leading to varicose veins.
6. Standing or Sitting Longer Than Normal
Sitting for an extended period of time hinders proper blood circulation around your legs, exposing you to varicose veins. Regular standing for long periods strains the veins in transporting the blood back to the heart. This is because the transportation has to take place against the force of gravity. Strained veins can allow the blood to flow backwards.
Is Treatment Necessary When You Have Varicose Veins?
In the past, treatment of varicose veins was necessary only if they caused disturbing symptoms. However, it is advisable to seek medical treatment if you experience the signs and symptoms of varicose veins, according to the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence.
The signs and symptoms may include inflammation, pain, itching, and change in skin pigmentation. These, however, may vary from one patient to another in terms of severity. The severity may also vary depending on the area of the body where varicose veins occur.
Treatments for Varicose Veins
Varicose veins can be treated through:
- Thermal ablation, which involves sealing the damaged veins using radiofrequency or laser treatment.
- Foam sclerotherapy, where veins that cannot be treated by thermal ablation are closed using a special foam.
- Stripping, which involves the surgical removal of the damaged veins. Physicians apply this method as a last resort, where all other treatments methods fail to work or if they are not suitable for varicose veins.
- Non-thermal treatments, including sealing damaged veins with cyanoacrylate glue. Unlike other treatment methods, non-thermal techniques involve fewer injections.
Risks associated with varicose vein treatments can be minimised if the treatments are done without sedation. However, treatment should take place while you are under local anaesthesia to prevent you from severe pain. Read more about minimally invasive treatment for varicose veins.
Can Varicose Veins Heal on Their Own?
Although varicose veins cannot heal on their own, there are certain measures you can apply to alleviate the signs and symptoms of the condition. They include:
- Regular physical exercises to enhance proper blood circulation in the veins
- Sitting with your legs elevated to reduce pressure on your leg veins
- Wearing compression stockings.
Are Varicose Veins Recurrent?
According to medical studies, a fifth of women experience recurrent varicose veins as a result of lack of treatments of varicose veins affecting their pelvic area. Also, you are likely to suffer from recurrent varicose veins if you fail to seek treatment for tiny veins that connect your deep lying veins to the shallow lying veins under the skin.
Varicose veins treated trough stripping are likely to recur. New veins that grow to replace the stripped veins develop without valves, leading to varicose veins.
Surprising Sites for Varicose Veins
Although varicose veins commonly attack legs, there are other surprising target areas on your body. These surprising target areas include:
1. Breasts and Cleavage
Varicose veins in your breasts and cleavage usually result from an implant surgery despite the fact that there are other potential risk factors. He states that each patient of breast or cleavage varicose veins is unique and needs individual consideration in terms of treatment. However, he asserts that applying certain treatments can generally help treat varicose veins in these body parts. Examples of these treatments include foam sclerotherapy or local anaesthetic phlebectomy.
2. Vagina and Vulva
Varicose veins in your vagina or vulva typically result from underlying pelvic conditions, which are more pronounced during pregnancy. The symptoms of varicose veins in these areas of the body may include pelvic aches, stress incontinence, pain in the vulva or vagina, and bladder or rectal discomfort due to pressure from enlarged veins. Many experts believe that varicose veins in the vulva or vagina have no appropriate treatment method.
Anal varicose veins, also known as piles or haemorrhoids, attack the interior or exterior of your anus. This type of varicose veins usually does cause any serious signs or symptoms among most patients. However, in rare cases, patients may experience bleeding and pain. The treatment of anal varicose veins may involve permanent destruction of the damaged veins through a process known as Hembolize. This treatment is effective in relieving the symptoms, including discomfort and embarrassment.
4. Hands and Arms
In most cases, varicose veins in your hands and arms result from ageing or loss of fat due to fat burning exercises. Although they do not cause any harm, they are not easy to conceal; hence, they may cause embarrassment. They deprive your arms of the good look, causing them to look older than they should be. In rare cases, you may experience bruising and blood clots. Varicose veins on your hands and arms can be treated by use of filler to allow the veins sink under the skin.
5. Area Around the Eyes
Typically, the veins around your eyes are not visible because they are covered in a fat layer located under the skin. When these veins become clearly visible, chances that they are varicose are high. Varicose veins around your eyes may cause the area to lose its normal shape due to bulging. Since hiding your eyes is difficult, the veins may result in embarrassment. These veins can be treated through various methods, including laser therapy and anaesthetic surgeries.
Besides the area around your eyes, veins in other areas of your face can also become varicose. Varicose veins in your face are also known as “broken capillaries” or thread veins and they appear in the form of wiggly lines in purple or red in colour. Although they are harmless, many people prefer to have them treated. Suitable treatments methods for facial varicose veins include intense pulsed light and electrolysis. The suitability of the treatment technique, however, depends on various factors, including the distribution and size of the varicose veins.
Although some varicose veins may be harmless, it is advisable to always seek medical attention however mild the condition may be. This will ensure proper blood circulation in your body, resulting in the normal functioning of the body. Also, because some varicose veins attack body areas such as the face and eyes, which are difficult to conceal, treating them ensures that your good look and confidence is restored.
- Varicose Veins Diagnosis & Management Guidelines
- Minimally Invasive Treatments for Varicose Veins
- Varicose Vein Laser Treatment FAQs
- Varicose Veins: Overcoming the Challenges Faced by Women
- Varicose Veins and the NHS’s Role in Treatment