What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are swollen and enlarged veins that are usually blue or dark purple. They may also be lumpy, bulging or twisted in appearance.
Varicose veins develop when the small valves inside the veins stop working properly. In a healthy vein, blood flows smoothly to the heart. The blood is prevented from flowing backwards by a series of tiny valves that open and close to let blood through. If the valves weaken or are damaged, the blood can flow backwards and can collect in the vein, eventually causing it to be varicose (swollen and enlarged).
How common are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are a very common condition, affecting up to three in 10 adults. Usually, women tend to be more affected than men.
Any vein in the body can become varicose, but they most commonly develop in the legs and feet, particularly in the calves. This is because standing and walking puts extra pressure on the veins in the lower body.
What lifestyle factors can contribute to their development?
– Standing all day – teachers, air hostesses,
– Sitting with legs crossed at the knee for long periods
– Genetic predisposition
– Venous insufficiency
– Hormonal changes
For most people, varicose veins do not present a serious health problem. They may have an unpleasant appearance, but they should not affect the circulation or cause any long-term health problems. Most varicose veins do not require any treatment.
For some people, varicose veins can cause aching, swollen and painful legs. Treatment should be sought if they are causing discomfort or becoming noticeably larger. In rare cases, they can also cause complications, such as skin discolouration and leg ulcers. Varicose veins are more likely to require treatment if they are causing significant discomfort or if complications develop.
There are now a number of different surgical procedures to remove varicose veins, although the first treatment is usually compression stockings. These are stockings that have been specially designed to squeeze the legs and improve circulation. The pressure from the compression stocking can help minimise the bulging of effected veins, provide pain relief and prevent them from worsening.
Difference between Varicose Veins and Spider Veins
Types of varicose veins:
1. Trunk varicose veins are near to the surface of the skin and are thick and knobbly. They are usually visible, often quite long and can look unpleasant.
2. Reticular varicose veins are red and are sometimes grouped close together in a network.
3. Thread veins or spider veins, are small clusters of blue or red veins that sometimes appear on your face or legs. They are harmless and, unlike trunk varicose veins, do not bulge underneath the surface of the skin.
Why Get Varicose Veins treated?:
– to ease symptoms, if your varicose veins are causing you pain or discomfort
– to treat complications, such as leg ulcers, swelling or skin discolouration
– cosmetic reasons, however this kind of treatment is rarely available publically so you will usually have to pay for it to be done privately
If you require treatment for varicose veins, the type of treatment you will receive will depend on your general health and the size, position and severity of your veins. Compression socks are prescribed for wear for several weeks pre and post treatment so it is worth trying them out before investing in expensive procedures to see if they relieve the discomfort and reduced the appearance of the varicose veins.