Many people have visibly swollen and distorted veins that lie just beneath the skin, mainly in the lower legs.
These varicose veins may also be found at the lower end of the oesophagus as the result of liver disease and in the rectum as piles (haemorrhoids). Varicose veins tend to run in families and pregnancy, excess weight and prolonged standing are risk factors. Sometimes they are a result of a deep vein thrombosis in the lower leg.
Varicose veins affect about 1 in 5 adults and are more common with increasing age. Although the condition may cause discomfort and appear unsightly, it’s not usually harmful to your health. Varicose veins mainly affect the legs. Veins have one-way valves to stop blood from flowing backwards down into the legs. If the valves in the deep veins do not close adequately, the blood flows back into the superficial veins near the skin. The pressure of returning blood causes these veins to become swollen and distorted, and they are then known as varicose veins. If left untreated, the condition often worsens. Sometimes dermatitis and even an ulcer may develop at the site of a varicose vein, often on the inner side of the ankle.
What Are The Causes of Varicose Veins?
- An inherited weakness of the valves in the veins can cause varicose veins to develop.
- The female hormone progesterone – the pregnancy hormone – causes the veins to dilate and may encourage the formation of varicose veins. The condition is therefore more common during pregnancy. Increased pressure is placed on the veins in the pelvic
region during pregnancy7 as the uterus gradually grows larger.
- Being overweight is a factor.
- Occupations that involve standing still for long periods and little walking can be to blame.
- A blood clot blocking a deep vein in the lower leg – deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – sometimes known as a “white leg”. It may follow major surgery if the patient doesn’t wear elastic stockings or remains immobile.
What Is The Treatment of Varicose Veins?
- In the majority of cases, varicose veins do not require treatment. Self-help measures such as wearing elastic stockings may be enough.
- If your varicose veins are small and below the knee, your doctor may recommend that the veins be injected with a solution to make their walls stick together and thus prevent blood from entering them.
- For varicose veins above the knee, the usual treatment is to tie off the connection with the deep vein so that blood does not enter the varicose vein.
- For entire varicose veins, surgical removal by “stripping” is an option. However, even after surgery, varicose veins may eventually recur, and treatment may need to be repeated.
- Varicose dermatitis and/or ulcer requires special treatment with topical creams and supportive bandaging.
- Varices at the lower end of the oesophagus, usually as the result of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis, can bleed internally and must be treated as a medical emergency.
- arices in the rectum are haemorrhoids and they may cause rectal bleeding.
Coping with Varicose Veins
There are a number of measures you can take if you have troublesome symptoms caused by varicose veins.
- Avoid prolonged standing.
- Take regular walks to keep blood flowing in the legs.
- Keep your legs elevated when sitting, if possible.
- If your doctor has recommended that you wear elastic stockings, put them on before you get out of bed in the morning while your legs are still elevated.
- Avoid clothing, such as girdles, that may restrict the flow of blood at the top of the legs.
- If you are overweight, you should try to lose weight.