Varicose veins are swollen, twisted and sometimes painful veins. They are commonly found on the insides of the legs between the groin and the ankle, and at the back of the calf. These veins appear bluish and are close to the surface of the skin.
Normally the veins are taut. However, if the blood flow is too sluggish, the veins slowly get dilated and tortuous in order to accommodate more blood in the lumen. Another possible reason is that the valves in the vein do not function properly
and the blood leaks down with gravity and collects in the veins of the legs, although it may also occur in other parts of the body. The cause of piles (or hemorrhoids) around the anus is also due to varicosity of veins around the anus.
Varicose veins can be inherited and if there is a strong predisposition in your family, this may be the most influential risk of all. It is believed that up to 15% adults in the western world are affected by this condition. Varicose veins are more likely to occur in women than in men.
The doctor diagnoses the condition by looking at the typical appearance of the swollen and tortuous veins. Sometimes a venogram
(X-ray of the vein) or duplex ultrasound
may be advised to find out the underlying cause.
The treatment of varicose veins aims at improving the blood flow back up to the heart. This can be achieved by simple conservative measures like elevation of the leg, exercising regularly and wearing elastic support stockings
. In severe cases of varicose veins, stripping or vein removal
may be performed. Sclerotherapy
is usually performed for cosmetic purposes.
Varicose veins tend to get worse with time. One can ease discomfort and slow varicose veins from getting worse by taking good care of them.