WHAT ARE VARICOSE VEINS?
Varicose veins are raised, ropey, enlarged veins. They usually appear on the legs and can cause the leg to swell, itch, ache, and in severe cases, can cause ulcers. Normal vein valves close after blood travels up the vein, preventing blood from moving backwards (refluxing) down the vein. Varicose veins form when valves in the vein fail (become incompetent). Valves become incompetent for a variety of reasons, including trauma and pregnancy. Once a valve becomes incompetent, the vein below the valve is exposed to higher pressure and becomes dilated. This causes other valves to fail and other veins to dilate.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF VARICOSE VEINS?
Varicose veins are dark blue in color and commonly appear on the backs of the calves or on the inside of the legs. But they can form anywhere on your legs, from your groin to your ankle. They protrude or bulge from under the skin and feel ropey. Varicose veins cause an achy or heavy feeling in the legs, and burning, itching, throbbing, muscle cramping and swelling in your legs. Prolonged sitting or standing makes your legs feel worse, while elevating your legs makes them feel better. Varicose veins can also cause skin ulcers near your ankle.
HOW ARE VARICOSE VEINS TREATED?
Both invasive and non-invasive methods are available to treat varicose veins. Non-invasive methods include wearing compression stockings, exercising, leg elevation, losing weight, not wearing tight clothes, avoiding long periods of standing or sitting and not crossing your legs while seated. Invasive treatments include endovenous therapy, ligation, and phlebectomy. Endovenous therapy is treatment from inside the vein using heat generated by lasers, radiofrequency devices or chemicals to irritate the vein walls and cause the vein to close and then be reabsorbed by the body. Ligation is tying off a vein to cause it to shrink. Phlebectomy is the term used for the removal of varicose veins.