Varicose Veins

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Varicose veins are surface veins that have become permanently enlarged. They may be visible and patients often feel that they are unsightly. In many cases, they cause no symptoms and do not need treatment.

In some patients they can cause:

  1. Aching, itchiness or pain, particularly towards the end of the day.
     
  2. Sometimes they can contribute to swelling of the legs, but often there are other factors involved in this.
     
  3. Large varicose veins can develop painful clots and cause an inflammatory reaction, known as "thrombophlebitis".
     
  4. Sometimes veins can bleed if they are cut or injured, or small spider veins can burst and cause bruising and staining of the skin.
     
  5. In extreme cases, the constant irritation of the veins can cause skin damage. If this is not treated patients can develop ulcers than can be difficult to heal.

Risk Factors

Some factors have been demonstrated to be associated with increased incidence of varicose veins. Some of them can be modified or avoided, whilst some cannot.

  1. Age - The older you are, the longer your veins have had to work for, and the less elastic your tissues become.
     
  2. Family History - Weakness of the valves or vein walls is often seen amongst family members, especially women. Many women will describe mothers or grandmothers with a history of varicose veins.
     
  3. Obesity - The more weight you carry, the more pressure is placed upon the veins and valves of the leg. This can also make treatment more difficult.
     
  4. Previous Thrombosis - If clot forms in a vein or a valve, then when the clot is absorbed the valves may become scarred and damaged.
     
  5. Pregnancy - During pregnancy, the foetus will compress the veins in the pelvis, obstructing flow out of the veins and placing more pressure on the leg veins. Furthermore, hormones released during pregnancy cause many connective tissues to relax, which is important for preparing the pelvis for giving birth.

In contradiction to many common beliefs, there is no known association with standing on concrete floors, diet, or sitting with the legs crossed.

Here is a link to a brief video about varicose veins.