Varicose veins are a major cosmetic nuisance in many women and some men. These large superficial veins on the legs generally become visible in the 3rd decade of life and generally get worse with age. The major cause of varicose veins is increased pressure inside the vein.
Normally the superficial veins in the leg carry blood back to the heart and are under no pressure. Any type of pathology or trauma that increases back pressure in the veins will result in varicose veins. For example if you are standing on your feet all day, the blood starts to pool in the lower legs and is not pushed to the heart. Over time this leads to development of varicose veins. The other very common condition which increases back pressure in the veins is pregnancy. The pressure of the fetus on the pelvis prevents the blood from freely flowing back to the heart. Over time, blood starts to increase in the superficial veins which then start to become more prominent. This is later followed by swelling in the feet.
Most varicose veins are obvious- they are usually bluish in color and appear like a “thick rope.” Women develop varicose veins more often than men. Sometimes the cause of varicose veins is deformed valves, trauma or use of the birth control pill. Many individuals today develop varicose veins because of their work. The prolonged standing causes the blood to pool in the legs and is unable to move back to the heart.
In general, varicose veins are a cosmetic problem. However, some women may develop symptoms like leg swelling, leg heaviness or itching along the leg. When the varicose vein is neglected, the majority of individuals will start to develop skin pigmentation around the ankle. Often the skin near the ankle becomes thin and breaks down to form an ulcer.
However, it is the cosmesis that bothers most women. Today, there are many treatments for varicose veins. If the vein is large and rope-like, the best treatment is surgical removal. If the varicose vein is enlarged and limited to the thigh there are various minimally invasive techniques to treat varicose veins. The majority of the procedures designed to treat varicose veins are performed as out-patients and can be performed with either local of spinal anesthesia. One should be aware that sclerotherapy is not useful for varicose veins.
For those who do not want surgery, the best alternative is to wear compressive stockings. There are many styles, designs and brands of compression stockings. Some of them are knee high and others extend above the knee. The compression stockings have graduated pressure such that the blood is forced up the leg. The stockings have to be worn every single day and can be taken off at night. Most people do not like to wear stockings because they are tight and perhaps feel too warm, especially if the weather is hot. With compression stockings, the vein is preserved and immediately relieves the symptoms.
Today there are several types of procedures to treat varicose veins. The type of procedure depends on the extent of your varicosities. It is important to seek a provider who has experience with treatment for varicose veins to avoid complications. In general, the majority of patients who are treated for their varicose veins have an uneventful course.