Varicose veins are enlarged tortuous superficial veins. They are common and affect up to 3 in 10 people. They affect equal numbers of men and women but women are more likely to seek medical advice.
Varicose veins run in families and are made worse by pregnancy, obesity and prolonged standing.
Veins take blood from the legs and feet back to the heart. There are two types of veins in the legs – superficial and deep. Superficial veins run just below the skin, and deep veins lie within the muscle. Both sets of veins have valves which should only allow flow of blood upwards, towards the heart. Sometimes weaknesses occur in the veins resulting in bulging and leaky valves. This allows blood to leak back towards the feet resulting in increased venous pressure and bulging tortuous veins.
Many varicose veins do not cause symptoms but people don’t like the way they look.
Symptoms which can be attributed to veins are:
Achy, heavy, uncomfortable legs particularly at the end of the day;
Burning or throbbing in your legs;
Muscle cramps in your legs at night;
Dry and itchy skin in the lower leg;
These symptoms are not medically serious but can be troublesome.
This inflammation of the veins and can be associated with thrombosis (clotting of blood) inside the vein which can become hard and tender. This is not the same as deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and is not usually dangerous but can be an indication for treatment of your veins.
The risk of bleeding from varicose veins is low but when it happens it can be very dramatic. It is easily stopped by elevation of the leg and pressure. It is an indication to treat the veins to prevent further episodes
An ulcer is a break in the skin. Venous disease is the most common cause of chronic leg ulcers. This is caused by abnormally high pressure in the veins damaging the skin. Treatment of varicose veins can improve ulcer healing and prevent recurrent ulceration