Varicose veins are swollen, twisted blood vessels that appear just beneath the surface of the skin. These are blue or purple bulges that are commonly found in the legs, feet, and ankles. This occurs due to standing and walking which raise the pressure in the veins of the lower body. In most cases, varicose veins are not considered dangerous.
Varicose and spider veins are two distinct types of venous conditions that exhibit dissimilar appearances. Spider veins are characterized by small streaks of red or purple color on the skin’s surface and may be found in the vicinity of varicose veins. Varicose veins, on the other hand, are visibly larger and thicker than spider veins. Although both conditions are usually considered cosmetic issues, some individuals may experience additional symptoms.
Varicose veins can cause agonizing pain and discomfort. Severe varicose veins can cause serious health complications such as blood clots. Most varicose vein symptoms can be treated at home. Injections, laser therapy, or surgery are other treatment options.
Varicose veins are usually visible. They are twisted, blue or purple veins immediately seen beneath the skin’s surface and often resemble cords on the legs.
Varicose veins can be uncomfortable. Common symptoms include:
- Aching or heavy sensation in the legs. Leg muscles may feel fatigued, heavy, or sluggish, especially after strenuous activity.
- Burning, throbbing, muscular cramps, and swelling in the lower leg, ankles, and feet.
- Increased pain after prolonged sitting or standing.
- Itching, which may occur near varicose veins.
- Skin color changes, specifically brown discolorations if left untreated.
While varicose veins are typically not a cause for concern, it is advisable to seek medical attention if self-care measures have been ineffective, or if they have become bothersome. Consulting a doctor for an examination and treatment may be necessary if the veins or skin exhibit signs of bleeding, discoloration, swelling, or sensitivity to the touch.
Arteries are vessels that transport blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Veins transport blood from other parts of the body to the heart. Ideally, the veins in the legs must battle against gravity to return blood to the heart.
Varicose veins develop when the walls of the veins deteriorate. Lower leg muscle contractions operate as pumps, and elastic vein walls aid in blood return to the heart. As the vein’s blood pressure rises, the weaker walls allow it to expand. The valves that keep blood flowing in one direction in the veins are unable to function properly as the vein stretches. Slowly flowing blood backs up or pools in the vein, leading it to expand, bulge, and twist.
Vein walls and valves can become weak due to a variety of factors such as hormones, aging, excessive weight gain, extremely tight clothing, and prolonged standing which puts pressure on the veins.
Various factors can increase an individual’s susceptibility to varicose veins, including:
- Family history: This condition can be inherited. If other members of the family have varicose veins, the likelihood of getting it is higher.
- Age: As the person gets older, the vein walls and valves stop working as they used to. Veins lose flexibility and become rigid. The valves in the veins that assist control blood flow wear down. Because of this wear, the valves eventually allow some blood to flow back into the veins, where it gathers.
- Gender: Female hormones can cause vein walls to stretch. Varicose veins are more common in women who are on the birth control pill, or going through menopause because to changes in hormone levels.
- Pregnancy: Varicose veins are common in pregnant women due to the rise of the blood volume in the body. It can cause vein enlargement in the legs.
- Obesity: Excess weight puts strain on veins.
- Lifestyle: Standing or sitting for long periods of time reduces circulation. Movement promotes blood flow. Constriction of clothing, such as girdles or jeans with tight waistbands, can reduce blood flow.