Veins that have become enlarged and tortuous are known as Varicose Veins. They are distinguished from reticular veins (blue veins) and telangiectasias (spider veins), which also involve valvular insufficiency, by the size and location of the veins. They are more common in women than in men, and are linked with heredity, pregnancy, obesity, menopause, aging, prolonged standing, leg injury and abdominal straining.
Muscles work against the effects of gravity to pump the veins to return blood to the heart. The blood flows through veins, which have leaflet valves to prevent blood from flowing backwards (retrograde). When the leaflets of the valves no longer meet properly, and the valves don’t work, blood is able to flow backwards so the veins enlarge. Varicose veins are most common in the superficial veins of the legs, which are subject to high pressure when standing. However, they can – and do – occur elsewhere on the body.
Varicose veins are largely considered a cosmetic problem. Serious complications are rare, but they can be painful, especially when standing or walking; and they often itch (scratching them can cause ulcers). There is no evidence to suggest that having varicose veins can increase your risk of DVT during your normal daily life. If you have varicose veins, you may be at increased risk of DVT if you have major surgery on your stomach, bones, joints, muscles or ligaments.
Treating Varicose Veins
The traditional surgical treatment has been vein stripping to remove the affected veins. Affected veins are superficial, and in the legs superficial veins return only about 10 per cent of the total blood. Newer, less invasive treatments, such as ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy, radiofrequency ablation and endovenous laser treatment, are slowly replacing traditional surgical treatments. Non-surgical treatments include sclerotherapy, elastic stockings, elevating the legs, and exercise.
Tight-fitting clothing should be avoided (it can restrict your circulation), as should sitting or standing still for long periods of time, particularly if you’re pregnant. Losing excess weight by eating healthily and taking regular exercise can help. This will take any extra pressure off of the circulatory system and improve blood-flow.
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