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Varicose veins are caused by weakened valves and veins in your legs. Normally, one-way valves in your veins keep blood flowing from your legs up towards your heart. When these valves do not work as they should, blood collects in the legs and pressure builds up. The veins become weak, large, and twisted. If the walls of the vein become stretched and less flexible (elastic), the valves may get weaker. Varicose veins may also signal a higher risk of other circulatory problems.

  • Veins look twisted, swollen and lumpy (bulging) and are blue or dark purple in colour.
  • There may be a shiny skin discoloration near the varicose veins, usually brownish or blue in color
  • Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but they're smaller. Spider veins are found closer to the skin's surface.
  • Aching legs, Legs feel heavy, especially after exercise or at night.
  • Worsened pain after sitting or standing for a long time.
  • A minor injury to the affected area may result in longer bleeding than normal.
  • Swollen ankles
  • Fat under the skin just above the ankle can become hard, resulting in the skin shrinking.
  • Irregular whitish patches that look like scars appear at the ankles.
  • Skin in the affected area may get red, dry and itchy - Venous eczema

Many people with varicose veins complain of pain, described as an aching or cramping in the legs. Other common symptoms include tiredness, restlessness, burning, throbbing, tingling or heaviness in the legs. That's because standing and walking upright increases the pressure in the veins of your lower body. Pain from these veins is usually relieved by elevating the legs or by wearing support hose. Occasionally, in very severe cases the varicose veins may rupture or varicose ulcers form on the skin.

  • Females are more likely to have varicose veins on their legs than males. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, pre-menstruation or menopause may be a factor because female hormones tend to relax vein walls.
  • Women are much more likely to develop varicose veins during their pregnancy than at any other time in their lives. Pregnant women have much more blood in their body; this places extra pressure on the circulatory system.
  • Genetics - varicose veins often run in families.
  • Overweight or obese people have a significantly higher risk of developing varicose veins.
  • The older we get, the more likely we are to develop varicose veins due to general wear and tear on vein valves.
  • Jobs where the individual has to spend a long time standing up may raise the probability of having varicose veins.

Varicose veins can form anywhere in the body but most often they are seen in the veins in the legs and thighs. The thickened, twisting or dilated parts of the vein are called varicosities.

If you have varicose veins, you may see a vascular medicine specialist or a vascular surgeon. These are doctors who specialize in blood vessel conditions.

Varicose veins are treated with lifestyle changes and medical procedures. The goals of treatment are to relieve symptoms, prevent complications, and improve appearance. Your doctor may advise you to wear special compression socks or stockings. If lifestyle changes aren’t working, or if your varicose veins are causing a lot of pain or is damaging your overall health, your doctor might try an invasive procedure.

Currently, a wide variety of minimally invasive treatment options for varicose veins are available. These include:

  • Sclerotherapy, using a liquid or foam chemical injection to block off a larger vein
  • Microsclerotherapy, using a liquid chemical injection to block off smaller veins
  • Laser surgery, using light energy to block off a vein
  • Endovenous ablation therapy, using heat and radiofrequency waves to block off a vein
  • Endoscopic vein surgery, using a small lighted scope inserted through a small incision to block off a vein

You should always talk to your doctor about your treatment options and the risks before choosing a method. The method recommended can depend on your symptoms, size, and location of the varicose vein.

  • Ulcers - Extremely painful ulcers may form on the skin near varicose veins, particularly near the ankles. A discolored spot on the skin usually begins before an ulcer forms. Ulcers are caused by long term fluid buildup in these tissues, caused by increased pressure of blood within affected veins.
  • Blood clots - Occasionally, veins deep within the legs become enlarged. In such cases, the affected leg may swell considerably. This calls for urgent medical attention because it may indicate a blood clot - thrombophlebitis.
  • Bleeding - Occasionally, veins very close to the skin may burst. This usually causes only minor bleeding. 

Measures that can be taken at home to improve pain and prevent varicose veins from worsening:

  • Exercising
  • Losing weight
  • Elevating the legs
  • Wear compression stockings
  • Avoide long periods of standing or sitting
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