Varicose veins are markedly dilated and tortuous veins, which are usually found on the leg.
In the legs, varicosities are common along the inner side of the leg, near the ankles and posterior calf region. The dilated veins appear blue, distended or elongated, looped or curled. Those suffering from varicose veins can experience any of the following symptoms:
In more severe cases of chronic venous insufficiency, the sluggishness of blood flow through the veins can cause localized skin changes like excessive dryness, itching, throw a erythematous rash or brownish discoloration and ulcers. The sluggish blood flow can also produce a clot in the vein. This clotting is known as thrombosis and is a common complication of varicose veins.
Generally, the symptoms of varicose veins worsen at the end of the day, especially due to prolonged standing throughout the day. Occasionally, women find that their symptoms are exaggerated before their menstrual periods, and during pregnancy.
Varicose veins can be diagnosed easily on physical examination due to their characteristic presentation. But to know the extent of affection, various other tests have to be performed as follows:
The most useful techniques are contrast venography, color-flow duplex ultrasonography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Magnetic resonance venography (MRV) can reach and diagnose varicosities in the deepest veins in the pelvis and calves, and is thus the most specific and sensitive test available.
Direct contrast venography is a very labor-intensive imaging technique. Being invasive, it has been replaced by duplex ultrasonography for routine evaluation of venous disease, at a number of centres, but the technique is very useful in remains extremely useful in tough cases .
Color-flow ultrasound imaging has become accepted as the standard for evaluation of venous anatomy and dense physiology. In many patients, color-flow imaging itself is sufficient.
Blood (laboratory) tests are not helpful in making a diagnosis of varicose veins.
Majority of people with mild symptoms of varicose veins are treated by use of compression stockings and leg elevations intermittently all day.
For varicose veins lying closer to skin, sclerotherapy or laser therapy may be useful. Sclerotherapy involves injecting a sclerosing agent into the affected vein, which leads to scarring of the vein and permanently shuts it down. Laser therapy is effective in tiny varicosities.
People with severe insufficiency may have recurrent thrombi and varicose ulcers. The conventional surgery known as vein stripping and ligation can be useful. During this procedure, the abnormal veins are tied and removed from the body through a series of small cuts in the skin. A similar surgical procedure, known as ambulatory phlebectomy, also rips out veins via small skin incisions, but it is not as invasive as the actual stripping and ligation.
Cryosurgery is a variant of stripping. The only agenda of this technique is to prevent a distal incision to remove the stripper .
Newer therapies include transilluminated power phlebotomy (a modified form of ambulatory phlebotomy) and endovenous thermal ablation. Endovenous thermal ablation uses a laser fiber placed inside the vein . These newer procedures are less invasive and are associated with lesser complications, with comparable efficacy  .
External laser therapy is used basically for cosmetic removal of the smaller spidery veins that are visible.
Recently FDA has approved a polidocanol foam (Varithena) which is a pharmaceutical-grade low nitrogen foam that is used in treatment of incompetent veins and varicosities affecting the great saphenous vein. It has been found to be effective in reducing the manifestations of the visible varicosities and the superficial venous incompetence .
Varicose veins are a chronic condition whose symptoms can be controlled with the help of leg elevation and therapeutic stockings.
Varicose veins can be treated permanently by various surgical procedures but they cannot prevent development of new varicose veins.
Varicose veins can be linked to genetics . Factors that affect the varicose veins are pregnancy, menopause, prolonged standing, obesity, ageing, injury to the leg, abdominal straining, prior surgery or trauma to the leg.
Increased homocysteine levels in the body can also cause varicose veins, as it leads to degradation and inhibits the formation of 3 important structures of the artery i.e. collagen, elastin and proteoglycans.
Varicose veins are more common in females as compared to their male counterparts . It is due to hormonal factors that varicosities are more frequent in women than men of any age group .
Death can take place as a result of bleeding from fragile varicose veins , but mortality rates reported with varicose veins is chiefly due to the combination of this condition with venous thromboembolism.
Varicose veins are normal veins that have dilated due to increased venous pressure. Blood collects in superficial venous capillaries, which then flows into bigger superficial veins, and ultimately through valves, empties into deep veins. Then it is carried back to the heart. Superficial veins are situated superficially in the skin, whereas deep veins are embedded in the muscle fascia. Blood passes from superficial veins to the deep system via perforating veins.
Chronic exposure to high pressure will cause any superficial vein to dilate and eventually varicose. Normal veins too dilate and become tortuous under continued high pressure, which might be due to dialysis shunts, spontaneous arteriovenous malformations, and hereditary vein wall weakness. Occasionally, even normal venous pressures produce varicose changes and venous insufficiency, for reasons unknown.
Prolonged high pressure in veins might be caused by an outflow obstruction, either from extrinsic compression or intravascular thrombosis.
Most commonly, superficial venous valve failure results from excessive dilatation of a vein from high pressure of reverse flow within the superficial venous system. Failure of valves can be an outcome of direct trauma or from thrombotic valve injury. When unveiled to high pressure chronically, superficial veins dilate to an extent, such that their fragile valve leaflets loose the contact.
When multiple valves fail in a series, the affected vein cannot efficiently pump the blood upwards. Venous blood then just flows along the pressure gradients i.e. downwards due to gravity and outwards to a congested and swollen leg. With passage of more time, many more superficial veins become dilated and tortuous.
During pregnancy due to hormonal changes that render the vein wall and the valves more pliable, varicose veins develop.
There's no way to completely prevent varicose veins. A person cannot change his or her genes, but they can take measures to avoid it as far as possible by pursuing the following regimen:
Exercising regularly to improve the circulation and muscle tone helps in keeping obesity at bay by maintaining healthy weight; obesity is a major risk factor for varicose veins.
Do not remain in the same position for long periods of time i.e. if you are sitting continuously, take a break and move around and if you are standing continuously, sit down for some time and relax.
Avoid wearing high heels everyday and binding clothes on day to day basis as tight clothes block movement of blood up the leg.
A varicose vein is a medical condition characterized by tortuous, dilated and often visibly enlarged veins. It is commonly seen in the lower extremities of the body.
Varicose veins are not a skin condition but it affects the veins of the body especially of the legs. Exact cause of varicose veins is not known hence preventing its development is not possible. Various factors like lifestyle, occupation, surgery, heredity, obesity etc. are seen to affect the veins. Having knowledge of these factors and accordingly making changes in our life can help to keep this disease at bay.
In case you are already suffering from varicose veins, you can avoid exacerbation of symptoms by timely lying down or sitting down. Use support stockings or compression stockings so as to avoid blood from pooling in the veins. Knocking off extra pounds is essential so that there is less stress on your legs. Regular exercises helps to maintain good body weight and your leg muscle tone remains good.