Varicose veins around the vaginal opening (vulva) result from inefficient blood flow in the vein. These varicose veins can develop anywhere in your body, but their appearance in the vagina or on the vulva is most commonly as a result of pregnancy.
What Causes Vulva Varicose Veins?
There are various reasons why you may have developed vulva varicose veins, with pregnancy being the leading cause.
A vaginal or vulvar veins is one of the litany of uncomfortable side effects that you may experience when you’re pregnant. During pregnancy, blood flow to the genitals and lower part of the body increases, as does the pressure placed on your pelvic area by your expanding uterus and developing fetus. Your veins constantly work against gravity to return blood to the heart, but during pregnancy they are forced to work harder than normal. Valves in your veins encourage the flow of blood to the heart and prevent it from flowing the wrong way. With the increased blood flow and pressure, these valves can become damaged and don’t close properly which allows the blood to flow backwards. When this happens, it can lead to blood pooling in the veins and result in varicose veins.
It’s important to mention that vulvar varicosities are very unlikely to cause any problems during childbirth. Should any bleeding occur, it can be easily controlled as these veins have a low blood flow.
Vaginal veins often tend to reduce after childbirth but on occasion don’t disappear completely without treatment. Further pregnancies cause the condition to worsen.
Although it is unusual for women to develop vaginal or vulvar veins if they have not been pregnant, it does happen and can be as a result of one of the following reasons:
Hormone fluctuations during pregnancy can cause your veins to dilate, which may result in the development of varicosities. These hormone changes can also create additional pressure on the inferior vena cava, the largest vein in your body, which will encourage the creation of varicose veins.
3. Pelvic Congestion Syndrome
This condition occurs when varicose veins develop in your ovaries. As for varicose veins elsewhere in your body, they are the result of weakened valves that don’t close properly thus leading to insufficient blood flow in the ovarian vein. The blood backs up causing the veins to become engorged and varicosities to form. These varicose veins can spread to the pelvis, vagina and vulva, and in some cases to the tops of the inner th
Pelvic Congestion Syndrome can affect any woman, but is more common in women of childbearing age. You will be more at risk for PCS if you have given birth naturally to more than one child.
Other risk factors include:
- Varicose veins in your legs
- A tipped uterus
- Being overweight
- Other family members having PCS
4. Family History
Genetics does play a part in determining whether or not you are susceptible to varicose veins. If a direct family member, for example your mother or grandmother, suffers with varicose veins, then you’ll be at a higher risk of developing them yourself. These veins may occur anywhere in your body, including your vagina and vulva.
Women of childbearing age, generally 25 – 45 years, are the most at risk for vaginal veins. This condition, however, can also affect older women. Your veins become less elastic as you get older and don’t function as efficiently. This can result in the venous blood flow slowing down and pooling in the veins causing varicose veins to develop.
6. Prolonged periods of standing
Standing for long periods of time means that your blood doesn’t flow as well as it does when you are moving. Without the encouragement of your body’s movement to keep it flowing, the blood will pool, creating pressure and weakness in your veins and allowing varicosities to develop.
In some very rare instances, vaginal veins can indicate the presence of a tumour in the pelvis that prevents the blood from draining properly.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Vulva Varicose Veins
If you develop varicose veins in your vagina or on your vulva, you may experience some discomfort as the veins swell due to blood pooling in the area. These veins are often noticeable and can be diagnosed through a simple physical examination.
If you don’t show any symptoms, vaginal veins can be difficult to diagnose as you would usually be lying down for a vaginal examination. Unless the veins are protruding, or particularly swollen and twisty, they may not appear any different to normal when you’re in that supine position. They are more noticeable if you stand up, sit or squat, and are therefore easier to diagnose. Sometimes these vaginal or vulvar veins can extend to the proximal inner thigh and will become more obvious.
There are various other symptoms that you may experience that could indicate the presence of vaginal veins, even if the veins themselves aren’t noticeable.
- Pain or pressure in the genital area
- A feeling of heaviness
- Itching or burning of the vulva and vaginal area
- A tenderness or bruised feeling
- Swelling in the genitals
- Dyspareunia, which is discomfort before, during or after sexual intercourse
A trans-vaginal ultrasound is also used to diagnose affected vaginal veins. These veins can’t easily be seen through the abdomen therefore an ultrasound scope is inserted into your vagina to scan the pelvic and genital region and transmit an image. The scan will allow the medical practitioner to identify any damaged veins and how severe they are. He can also determine whether blood is flowing in the wrong direction, pooling in the veins or clotting.
If you present with obvious signs of vaginal varicose veins, or are experiencing symptoms that make you suspect that you may have them, it’s important to consult with a medical practitioner who can confirm the diagnosis and give advice on treatment options.
Types of Treatment for Vulva Varicose Veins
Blue veins around your vagina, although embarrassing and sometimes uncomfortable, are very rarely indicative of any more serious underlying condition. If they are the result of a pregnancy, very often they will disappear without any medical intervention. Should they not go away, there are a few ways that these unsightly veins can be treated.
This is possibly one of the most common procedures to eliminate blue veins around the vagina, as it is known to be very effective on thin-walled veins. During sclerotherapy, a solution called the sclerosant is injected into the affected vein. The sclerosant causes the vein to harden, a process called sclerosis. The blood reroutes through other veins and the affected vein is absorbed into the surrounding tissue and disappears.
Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive procedure that is very safe for the treatment of small varicose veins.
For larger varicose veins of up to one centimetre in diameter, a treatment called foam sclerotherapy can be used. The sclerosant is combined with air bubbles to form foam. This enables the sclerosant to reach the vein walls and close the vein. Blood is rerouted through healthy veins and the affected vein is absorbed.
Bruising, discomfort or mild phlebitis might occur in the treated area after the procedure and can be treated with over-the-counter medication. More serious complications are unlikely.
2. Laser Treatment
Laser treatment is also very effective in treating vaginal or vulvar veins. A small catheter containing a fibre optic laser probe is inserted through a tiny cut in the skin into the damaged vein. The probe emits pulses of laser energy that heats the vein walls causing it to close up. It is eventually absorbed by the body.
Laser treatment is an outpatient procedure, and takes less than an hour. After treatment, area may feel bruised or you could experience some pain. These are temporary after-effects of the laser therapy and are quite normal.
3. Cryoacrylate Glue Treatment
A fairly new technique in treating varicose veins is the use of a glue-like substance, called a cyanoacrylate. This has in the past been used very successfully to treat blood vessel abnormalities. There is no heating, burning or local anaesthetic needed with this treatment. A small amount of glue is injected into the vein which causes the vein to close and the blood to be rerouted through healthier veins.
This is a quick procedure and recovery is immediate as there is no anaesthetic, drugs or cutting of the skin involved. You might experience mild pain or discomfort in the treated area, but this is easily treated with anti-inflammatories. Light walking combine with periods of rest and leg elevation are also encouraged.
4. Thermal Ablation Treatment
During this procedure, a small incision is made under local anaesthetic, and a fibre is inserted into the damaged vein. Radio-frequency energy in the form of heat is transmitted through the fibre and causes the affected vein to collapse.
You can resume your normal daily activity after this treatment, but avoid any rigorous exercise. You may experience minor discomfort, but this can be treated with standard over-the-counter medication.
How to Prevent Vulvar Veins
It’s not always possible to prevent vulvar veins from occurring, especially during pregnancy. If you already have them you can prevent them from worsening, and also lower your risk of developing varicose veins elsewhere by practising the follow:
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time
- Avoid wearing high heels or other shoes that will put pressure on your lower body
- Keep yourself hydrated by drinking lots of water
- Sleep with your hips slightly raised to avoid blood pooling in the pelvic area
- Change positions frequently
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthily and maintain a constant weight
- When sitting, elevate your legs off the ground
- Wear compression stockings
- Don’t wear clothing that is too tight at the waist or in the groin area
If you have varicose veins in your legs, you should treat these early by wearing supportive garments such as compression stockings, avoiding excessive weight fluctuations and avoiding postures that exert greater pressure on the veins. By doing this, you might be able to reduce your risk of vulvar varicosities occurring.
Vaginal varicose veins are unpleasant. There are various measures that you can take to lessen your risk of them developing, but you still can’t guarantee that they won’t occur. If they do, they can be uncomfortable, and even painful. The important thing is that they can be treated, and it’s always best to have them attended to as soon as possible to make treatment and your subsequent recovery easier.
Be aware of any changes in your genital area, and don’t be embarrassed to call us for a consultation.
Vulva varicose vein treatment with Mr Dimitri is available at various NHS and Healthcare Commission recognised facilities covering Cheshire, Chester, North Wales, Manchester, Stockport, Warrington, Wirral and Liverpool.
- Understanding your Varicose Veins
- Will Varicose Veins Disappear after Pregnancy?
- Pain Relief from Varicose Veins
- What the NHS Can Do for Your Varicose Veins
- Why Do I Have Blue Veins Around My Vagina?