Varicose veins are veins that are increased or bulged in size and filled with more blood. They appear dilated with reddish or purplish colour, most often in the lower legs and that too more common in women. They are also known by the name of varicosities.
What are the Causes of Varicose veins?
Veins are the blood vessels that carry impure or deoxygenated blood from various parts of our body to our heart for oxygenation or purification. The veins have valves that function in such a way that blood flows only in one direction, that is from the body parts to the heart.
But in some people, if the veins are affected due to any reason, the valves can also become weak. If the functioning of the valves of the veins is faulty, then blood can flow back in the reverse direction into the part of the vein which collects blood from the body parts. This leads to the bulging of veins and the formation of varicose veins eventually.
There are several different reasons why people develop varicosities. Let us discuss them below:
Pregnancy is one of the most common conditions in which women develop varicose veins. There are several reasons for it. For example, the volume of blood in the body of a pregnant woman is more in comparison to the volume of blood in a woman who is not pregnant. This exerts pressure on the blood vessels.
Also, the changes in the levels of the hormones during pregnancy can add to this problem further by enabling the veins and blood vessels to relax and facilitate the pooling of blood in the veins.
Besides, any condition which increases the abdominal pressure can exert pressure on the veins in the pelvic region and the legs. Pregnancy is one such condition that increases abdominal pressure due to the baby in the uterus leading to varicosities.
We already mentioned that varicose veins are more common in women. Do you wonder why? It is mainly because of the hormonal changes that occur in women. Due to these hormonal fluctuations, blood vessels including veins can relax and cause accumulation of blood. If you use any hormonal contraceptives or hormonal therapy for reducing menopausal symptoms, it can accentuate your problem further.
Standing for a long time:
If you happen for a long time due to the nature of your job, you might have the risk of developing varicose veins due to the accumulation of blood in the veins of the lower legs and stretching of the veins.
Postmenopausal women are also at more risk of developing varicose veins due to hormonal changes or due to taking hormonal therapy.
If you are obese or overweight, you might have increased abdominal pressure or your overall weight might put pressure on the veins in your legs leading to varicosities.
Some other causes of varicose veins include:
- Having a family history of varicosities
- Being over the age of 50 or 55
- Lifting heavy weights can also make you prone to develop varicosities
What are the Symptoms of Varicose veins?
The majority of the people who have varicose veins don’t have any symptoms or problem. The only problem is that they look bulging or dilated and purple or blue. But in some people, they might cause some symptoms like:
- Pain in the area of the varicose veins, for example, lower legs
- Swelling of the ankle or pedal oedema due to the accumulation of excess blood in the legs
- Feeling of heaviness in the legs after prolonged work
- The skin over the varicosities may become dry, itchy, etc.
- As there is more blood in the varicose veins than normal, if you happen to sustain any minor injury also, you might be bleeding for longer than usual.
- You might feel irritation in the legs at night and start moving or jerking your legs involuntarily while sleeping, which is called the restless legs syndrome.
How are Varicose veins Diagnosed?
Your Physician might perform a physical examination to examine your legs and other body parts to check for dilated or enlarged veins. He might ask you to do a Doppler test or Color Duplex Ultrasound test to check the veins, the blood flow, any obstruction in the veins, clots, blood flow rate, etc. It will help in determining if you have any underlying abnormalities causing varicose veins.
How are Varicose veins Treated?
The initial approach to varicosities by a doctor is to advise lifestyle modifications. Only if you not getting better with such changes, the doctor might suggest some other treatment options. Let us look at such lifestyle changes for Varicose veins below:
- As Varicose veins can be caused by prolonged standing, you need to avoid standing for prolonged periods in one place. You need to sit for some time in between, keep moving.
- If you are obese or overweight, try to lose some weight
- Use Compression stocking to avoid the accumulation of blood in the Varicose veins in the legs. Compression stockings help in the passage of blood from veins in the legs to the heart by exerting pressure on these veins.
- Exercise regularly, do yoga, etc to enhance proper blood flow through the blood vessels
- Eat food rich in Potassium, as it reduces water retention in the body
- Eat food rich in fibre which helps you to get rid of constipation which is one of the causes or risk factors for developing Varicose veins
- Eat food containing Flavonoids like grapes, bell peppers, garlic, etc as they help in enhancing blood flow and in reducing the size of Varicose veins
- Keep pillows below your legs and elevate them while sleeping at night as it prevents the accumulation of blood in the lower legs
If your varicose veins don’t respond to such lifestyle changes and if you develop severe pain, any ulcers in the legs, etc, your doctor might decide to go for medical interventions like:
- Sclerotherapy: Chemical injection might be given in the dilated veins to close them.
- Using laser lights to block the veins
- Using Radiofrequency energy to close or block the veins
- Surgery of the Varicosities using endoscopic techniques to close or block the Varicose veins.