Although it isn't something we deal with at our clinic, it's something that we're often asked about or see when persons come in for different ailments. With some persons, because it isn't painful it isn't a bother, but for others it is about pains and discomfort and/or the way it looks.
Varicose veins are large, raised, swollen blood vessels that twist and turn. They usually develop in the legs and can be seen through the skin. In severe cases, they bulge excessively.
Spider veins are smaller, red, purple, and blue vessels that also twist and turn. They are easily visible through the skin as well. Most often they are also seen on the legs.
Approximately between 30-60 per cent of adults develop them; with some persons it's one type and with others it's both. These veins tend to develop more in women and the amount popping up may increase with age.
A number of factors pre-dispose a person to varicose and spider veins. These include:
• Genetics — it runs in the family
• Occupations that involve a lot of standing, such as nurses, hairstylists, teachers, factory, and field workers
• Hormonal influences during puberty, pregnancy and menopause
• A history of blood clots
• Conditions that cause increased pressure in the abdomen, including tumours, constipation, and externally worn garments like girdles.
Other reported causes include trauma or injury to the skin and/or previous vein surgery.
Many patients with varicose veins complain of pain, described as an aching or cramping in the legs. Other common symptoms include tiredness, restlessness, burning, throbbing, tingling or heaviness in the legs.
In women, symptoms may be worse during the menstrual cycle or during pregnancy. Patients may also develop swelling, ulcers (large sores), and an increase in the pigmentation or darkening of the colour of their skin, especially in the ankle region. Occasionally, varicose veins can form a painful blood clot with inflammation of the vein. You definitely need to visit a doctor in these extreme cases.
A few common treatment options for varicose and spider veins:
1. Support Stockings — The most conservative approach is simply to wear properly fitting support stockings, especially when the veins are swollen or cause painful or uncomfortable symptoms.
2. Elevation of the legs — This can offer relief depending on the severity of the condition.
3. Lifestyle changes — Walking can help treat varicose and spider veins; along with weight loss (if needed).
4. Surgery — Surgical techniques to treat varicose veins include ligation (tying off of a vein) and stripping (removal of a long segment of vein). Another procedure, ambulatory phlebectomy, allows for the removal of large surface veins through very small incisions that do not need stitches. Surgery may be performed using local, spinal or general anaesthesia. Most patients return home the same day as the procedure. Surgery is generally used to treat large varicose veins.
Not all patients need treatment for their varicose or spider veins. Many people have no pain or other symptoms. For these individuals, no treatment is necessary, unless they want the veins removed for cosmetic reasons. Careful thought should be exercised, though, before this option is explored. It's best to make an appointment with a vascular surgeon to examine the options best suited for you.
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