Varicose Veins

What are varicose veins? 
Varicose veins are swollen and twisted veins that appear in the legs.

Why varicose veins appear?
Varicose veins appear when the veins in the legs do not work the right way. Normally, the veins in the legs carry blood from the legs back to the heart. The veins have tiny valves inside them to help keep blood moving in only toward the heart. When these valves are damaged or do not work well, the blood cannot circulate and this causes blood to collect in the legs. Blood is especially likely to collect in the legs when people sit or stand for a long time without walking.

What conditions can cause varicose veins?
The main causes of varicose veins are:
  • Familiar heritage – weakness of veins and valves is genetic.
  • Multiple pregnancies – hormonal changes during pregnancy can weaken vein walls and valves.
  • Weight gain.
  • Leg injury – can damage valves.
  • Deep venous thrombosis – blood clot in the leg veins can cause varices.

What are the symptoms of varicose veins? 
People with varicose veins often complain of:
  • Leg pain, or the leg feeling tired or heavy
  • Swelling in the lower legs or ankles, mainly at the end of the day.
  • Spider veins (telangiectasias).
  • Swollen veins.
  • Skin color changes – The skin can turn red or red-brown. Skin color changes often happen first around the ankle.
  • Open sores, also called “venous ulcers” – These are usually at the ankle and can be painful and ooze.

Is there a test for varicose veins? 
Yes. Varicose veins can be diagnosed by the vascular surgeon with careful inspection and palpation of the legs. If necessary, he might also do a test called a Doppler ultrasound or duplex scan. An ultrasound can check how well the valves in the legs work. It can also see if any of the veins in the legs are blocked.

What can I do to reduce my symptoms?
  • Walk around, and try not to sit or stand in one place for a long time.
  • Raise your legs up 3 or 4 times a day, for 30 minutes each time.
  • Do exercises to point your toes and feet down and up a few times each day.

How are varicose veins treated?
Vascular surgeons can use different treatments to varicose veins:
  • Compression stockings - are special socks that fit tightly over the ankle and leg. The vascular surgeon will recommend the appropriate type to wear and how to put them on.
  • Medicines – Many symptoms can be treated with medicines. People with a skin infection might need antibiotics. Varicose veins with inflammation might need a prescription of anti-inflammatories. Dry and itchy skin gets better with an appropriate cream.
  • Dressings - are necessary to treat open sores. Special coverings can be used to help them heal.
  • Procedures – To remove varicose veins, vascular surgeons need to do procedures. Spider veins can be treated by sclerotherapy. Diseased veins can be removed with small surgery. Laser can help treatment in appropriate cases. Foam is a promising technique with good results in selected cases.