• Varicose Veins

    Definition

    Varicose veins are enlarged and swollen veins. They can occur anywhere in the body, but are particularly common in the pelvis and legs.
    Varicose Veins
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    Causes

    Veins have one way valves to channel blood back to the heart. Varicose veins develop when the valves of the veins become damaged. This causes blood to pool in the veins, enlarging them and often making the veins just beneath the skin visible.

    Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your risk of getting varicose veins include:
    • Family members with varicose veins
    • Sex: female
    • Age: childbearing age and older
    • Hormonal changes, as with puberty, pregnancy, or menopause
    • Pressure on the veins of the pelvis, as with pregnancy or an abdominal tumor
    • Obesity
    • Working at a job that requires standing on your feet for long periods
    • Wearing knee-high socks or stockings with tight elastic
    • Previous leg injury

    Symptoms

    Symptoms include:
    • Veins visible through the skin, appearing enlarged, twisted, and swollen
    • Achy, tired, heavy feeling in the area of the varicose veins or generally in the legs, especially after standing
    • Leg cramps
    • Burning or throbbing pain in the legs
    • Itching
    • Swollen legs
    • In severe cases, skin changes below the area of the varicose veins, including:
      • Rashes
      • Discoloration
      • Sores that are difficult to heal

    Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Varicose veins can be easily seen. An ultrasound exam of your legs may also be done.

    Treatment

    Treatment Options

    • Sclerotherapy—injects the varicose veins with a chemical to shrink the veins
    • Radiofrequency occlusion—collapses and seals varicose veins using radiofrequency energy
    • Laser or light source therapy—laser or light source energy used to seal, collapse, and dissolve varicose veins
    • Surgery—banding and removing varicose veins—only for severe cases

    Lifestyle Changes

    • Avoid standing for long periods of time.
    • Don't wear footwear that interferes with circulation.
    • Rest with your legs elevated.
    • Wear lightweight compression stockings. Wearing these may help improve circulation in the leg veins.
    If you are diagnosed with varicose veins, follow your doctor's instructions .
    If you are diagnosed with varicose veins, follow your doctor's instructions .

    Prevention

    Varicose veins can't be completely prevented, especially if they run in your family. The following recommendations may help:
    • Maintain a healthy weight.
    • Don't wear socks or stockings with tight elastic around your legs.
    • Try to avoid regularly standing for long periods of time.

    RESOURCES

    American College of Phlebology http://www.phlebology.org

    American Society of Plastic Surgeons http://www.plasticsurgery.org

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery http://www.csaps.ca

    Canadian Society for Vascular Surgery http://canadianvascular.ca

    References

    Gorroll A. Mulley A. Primary Care Medicine . 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000.

    Varicose veins. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 2, 2013. Accessed March 13, 2013.

    Varicose veins. VascularWeb website. Available at: http://www.vascularweb.org/vascularhealth/pages/varicose-veins.aspx. Updated January 2012. Accessed March 13, 2013.

    Varicose veins and spider veins fact sheet. Women's Health.gov website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/varicose-spider-veins.cfm. Updated June 2, 2010. Accessed March 13, 2013.

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