The primary function of veins is to carry deoxygenated blood from different parts of the body to the heart. They are an important part of our circulatory system because all body functions depend on the supply of fresh blood. Veins are responsible for delivering blood back to the right chamber of the heart. A disruption in this process can lead to poor body functioning and even death in some cases.
But there could be faults in a person’s venous system, leading to certain complications. One such venous issue faced by many is varicose veins. These are a common sight on the legs of older people. These emerge as gnarled, blue veins lying beneath the skin’s surface like bumpy serpents.
Varicose veins are actually blood vessels that carry blood from the legs back to the heart. They emerge as a result of faulty, inefficient valves, which do not shut properly and cause blood to leak with gravity and collect within the person’s veins. The accumulation of blood in the veins causes them to bulge and enlarge, triggering a number of unpleasant symptoms.
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 60 percent of all men and women complain of some type of vein disorder. But they have found that a quarter of people suffering from varicose vein are males, albeit women always seek treatment for spider veins. Spider veins, the blue or red delicate tracings popping on the surface of the skin like spider webs, are a form of varicose veins. They can be worse when collagen under the skin breaks as a result of sun exposure.
Symptoms of varicose vein
Varicose veins are not always painful. But you may experience the following symptoms:
- “Purple snake” effect, where veins turn dark blue or purple in color
- Veins appear twisted and bulged like cords.
But some people do complain of painful varicose pains. In such cases, typical symptoms include:
- Achy or heavy sensation in your legs
- Throbbing, burning, swelling or cramping in muscles in lower legs
- Pain in your legs after standing or sitting for a long time
- Itching around your veins
- Red discoloration of the skin resulting from a painful cord
- Inflammation of the skin
- Hardening of the vein
- Skin ulcers near ankles
Given the symptoms, varicose veins are more ugly and unpleasant than hazardous.
Causes of varicose vein
The exact cause of varicose vein is still unknown. But most medical experts identify genetic factors that lead to its emergence. Genetic factors have a tendency to make vein valves weak. Hormones also play a crucial part in the varicose vein. But hormonal factors are commonly seen at play in women suffering from the issue. There are other reasons, such as puberty, menopause, and pregnancy, that lead to the varicose vein in women. Also, taking progesterone, estrogen, and contraceptive pills for birth control are also seen to weaken vein valves and change blood circulation in legs.
During pregnancy, the increased volume of blood circulating in the mother’s body can cause veins to bulge. If they are sitting with a full uterus, their thighs are likely to experience low blood circulation, with blood not returning to the heart for purification. But varicose veins resulting from pregnancy usually deflate in three months, albeit new pregnancies can bring them back permanently. Factors like obesity, age, and continuing standing position can also cause veins in the legs to swell up.
Diagnosis of varicose vein
Diagnosis of varicose veins can only be done by an expert medical practitioner. The doctor will examine your legs for protruding veins while you are in standing or sitting position in order to diagnose the issue. He or she may also ask you about your symptoms or any pain you may be experiencing. An ultrasound is usually conducted to examine the blood circulation in your legs. This process doesn’t involve any surgeries and uses only sound waves with high frequency. An ultrasound gives a complete report of how blood is circulating in your veins.
In order to further access your veins, a venogram may also be done depending on the location. This test involves a doctor injecting a dye into your legs and taking an x-ray of the spot. The dye usually appears on the x-ray and gives a proper view of blood circulation in your legs. Ultrasound and venogram are useful because these tests help doctors ensure that blood clots and other disorders aren’t present.
Treatment of varicose vein
There are many varicose veins removal options in Charleston. Here are a few of them:
While surgery is a good option for treating varicose veins, not everyone is a suitable candidate for it. Surgery for varicose veins should be avoided if:
- The patient is pregnant for less than 6 weeks because such veins usually disappear.
- The varicose veins do not pain because they could be due to cosmetic reasons.
- Lifestyle changes and home care techniques do not work for patients.
Surgeries for varicose veins are usually performed in an outpatient clinic. It involves stripping or vein ligation (tying) or avulsion of smaller vein branches. General anesthesia is used during the surgery, which means you won’t feel any pain during the procedure. The surgery requires hospitalization when it is being performed on both legs.
- Foam sclerotherapy
Sclerotherapy involves a doctor injecting foam into your varicose veins. The foam functions by scarring the vein and sealing them close. An ultrasound scan is typically used to guide the foam to the vein. The procedure involves the use of local anesthesia, where the treated area can be numbed by painkilling medications. The procedure usually takes a few weeks time to fade the varicose veins. You should be able to get back to walking immediately, but you will have to wear compression bandages or stockings for maybe a week.
- Radiofrequency ablation
This procedure involves an expert heating the walls of varicose veins with the use of radiofrequency energy. The vein is usually accessed by making a small incision either below or above the knee. A catheter is inserted into the vein with the help of an ultrasound scan. Radiofrequency energy is sent into the veins by inserting a probe into the catheter. The insertion of radiofrequency energy heats the veins until their walls collapse, thus closing and sealing the vein valves. This changes the course of the blood towards healthy veins. Both general and local anesthesia can be used for the procedure. The use of compression stockings for a week after the procedure is recommended.
- Endovenous laser treatment
This procedure is not very different from radiofrequency ablation. It involves an expert inserting a catheter into the Varicose vein and guiding it using an ultrasound scan. The doctor also passes a tiny laser through the catheter and positions it at the topmost part of the varicose vein. The use of laser heats up the walls of the vein because it delivers energy bursts into it. The heat causes the wall to collapse, thus closing and sealing the vein. Both general and local anesthesia can be used for the procedure. You may experience some degree of tightness, pain and bruising in affected areas, but they are temporary side effects of the procedure.
This involves a specialist making two incisions, one at the knee and other on the groin. The saphenous vein is pulled out after inserting a tunneling device between the two points under the skin. The incisions usually don’t leave behind any scars but it does involve some bleeding and bruising. The patient requires at least 5 to 10 days for returning to a normal routine. Stripping causes some degree of numbness in the skin due to some damage caused to the nerves. But the numbness is not dangerous and lasts only a few days.
Risks of varicose veins
There are a few factors that amplify the risks of developing varicose veins:
- Gender: Women are at a greater chance of developing the issue owing to hormonal changes during pre-menstruation, pregnancy or menopause. Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapies also increase the risk of varicose veins.
- Age: Aging causes vein valves to wear out. This wear and tear cause blood to flow back into your veins instead of flowing up to your heart.
- Genetic factors: Family history of varicose veins also increase the chances of developing the issue.
- Prolonged standing or sitting: Maintaining a sitting or standing position for a very long time hampers blood circulation.
- Obesity: This can cause varicose veins by exerting high pressure on veins.
Varicose veins cannot be prevented completely. But improving muscle tone and blood circulation can certainly lower risks of developing the issue. Exercising, keeping a check on weight, eating low-salt, high-fiber diets, making lifestyle changes, and avoiding prolonged sitting or standing positions can prevent the issue to a great extent.