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Varicose veins (varicose veins) are swollen, twisted and dilated veins that can be seen under the skin. They are often red or blue. They usually appear on the legs, but can occur in other parts of the body.
Normally, the unidirectional valves in the veins of the legs maintain blood flow to the heart. When the valves do not work properly, blood returns through the vein. This is inflamed by the blood that accumulates there, which causes varicose veins.
Varicose veins are common, they affect women more than men. They do not cause problems for most people. However, if blood flow through the veins worsens, problems such as swelling and pain in the leg, blood clots and skin changes may occur.
The risk factors include:
Being a woman (hormonal changes due to puberty, pregnancy and menopause can lead to varicose veins; in addition, birth control pills or hormone therapy may increase the risk)
Born with defective valves
History of blood clots in the legs
Stand or sit for long periods
Family history of varicose veins
Symptoms of varicose veins include:
Fullness, heaviness, ailment and sometimes leg pain
Visible and swollen veins
Smaller veins that you can see on the surface of the skin, called spider veins
Cramps in thighs and calves (usually at night)
Slight swelling of the ankles
If blood flow through the veins worsens, symptoms may include:
Swelling of the leg
Leg or calf pain after sitting or standing for long periods
Color changes in the skin of the legs or ankles
Dry, irritated, flaky skin that can break easily
Skin sores (ulcers) that do not heal easily
Thickening and hardening of the skin on the legs and ankles (this may happen over time)
Tests and exams
Your health care provider will examine your legs for inflammation, changes in skin color or sores. Your provider can also:
Examine blood flow in the veins
Rule out other leg disorders (such as a blood clot)
Your provider may suggest that you take the following personal care measures to help manage varicose veins:
Wear resting socks to decrease swelling. They gently compress the legs to raise blood.
DO NOT sit or stand for long periods. Even moving your legs slightly helps the blood to circulate.
Raise your legs above the level of the heart 3 or 4 times a day for 15 minutes at a time.
Treat wounds if you have open sores or infections. Your provider can show you how.
Lose weight if you are overweight.
Exercise more This can help you keep your weight at bay and mobilize blood up your leg. Walking or swimming are good options.
If you have dry or cracked skin on your legs, moisturizing them can help. However, some skin care treatments can make the problem worse. Talk to your provider before using any type of antibiotic lotions, creams or ointments. Your provider can recommend lotions that can help.
If only a small number of varicose veins are present, the following procedures can be used:
Sclerotherapy Salt water (saline solution) or a chemical solution is injected into the vein. The vein hardens and then disappears.
Phlebectomy Small surgical cuts (incisions) are made in the leg near the damaged vein. The vein is removed through one of the incisions.
If varicose veins are larger, larger and spread in the leg, your provider may suggest some of the following:
Procedures that can be done in the provider’s office or clinic, such as laser or radiofrequency.
Removal of the varicose vein, which is used to remove or tie a large vein in the leg called the superficial saphenous vein.
Varicose veins tend to get worse over time, but personal care can relieve discomfort and decrease its progression.
When to contact a medical professional
Call your provider if:
Varicose veins are painful.
They worsen or do not improve with personal care, such as keeping your legs elevated or avoiding standing for a long time.
There is a sudden increase in pain or swelling, fever, redness of the leg or appearance of leg ulcers.
You develop leg ulcers that don’t heal.
Varicose veins – What to ask the doctor