Varicose veins is a condition in which the superficial veins of the legs become large and bulging, causing pain, swelling, skin discoloration and many other symptoms in the affected area. Although they can occur in any part of the body, they are most commonly seen in the legs as well as the feet. Also, varicose veins appear twice as much in women than in men. Given below are the causes, symptoms as well as treatment methods associated with them.
In order to circulate the blood from the lungs to the other body parts, arteries make use of thick layered muscles. To push back the blood to the heart, the veins depend upon the surrounding muscles and the valves. These valves open up to allow the blood to flow and enter and then close down, to prevent the blood from flowing back.
Varicose veins appear when there is a continuous increase in the blood pressure, which makes the veins wider. When the veins dilate, their walls get pushed apart and thus, valves are not able to function properly, allowing the blood to remain in the veins. Due to the pooling of blood in the veins, they bulge out and twist, causing pain and swelling in the process. Hormonal fluctuations especially during pregnancy, menopause, a deficient diet, natural aging process, obesity and various other conditions which exert pressure on the legs or hamper the blood circulation in some way, can lead to varicose veins.
The common signs and symptoms of varicose veins include the following:
- There is swelling in the feet as well as the ankles.
- The blood vessels in the affected area become prominent and present a dark blue color.
- Pain and heaviness in the affected area, which worsens when the person stands for a long time.
- Cramping of legs
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Itching around the affected area.
- There might be a change in the skin color, i.e. the skin on the feet and around the ankles, can turn into a grayish-brown color. Skin peeling or skin ulcers can also be noticed in severe cases.
If the condition is not so severe, certain self-care remedies such as exercises, elevating the legs when resting and avoiding prolonged hours of standing or sitting can help to get relief from varicose veins. Another way is to wear support stockings to ease the pain and discomfort. When a person wears them, the muscles of his leg push the blood in the upward direction, by centralizing the pressure near his ankles. Support stockings are the first thing that a person with varicose veins should put on his legs, even before getting out of bed. Ideally, support stockings should be put throughout the day. Certain over-the-counter painkillers or anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen can also be taken to minimize the pain in legs as well as the associated swelling.
However, if the varicose veins become very deep and there is a change in skin color, associated with the appearance of ulcers over the affected skin or a continuous pain that refuses to go away, medical attention is required. Usually, the doctor will suggest a laser treatment. For milder superficial veins, sclerotherapy, in which sclerosing agent, a chemical, is injected in the veins to break down its walls. In severe cases, the doctors suggest surgery to treat very large and bulging varicose veins.
All the above treatment methods have one major drawback - there is no way they can prevent any new veins from turning varicose. So it's wise to make certain lifestyle changes to reduce your chances of getting varicose veins. These include the following...
- Eat a balanced and low-fat diet that comprises plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. They cause lesser pain upon standing when the person weighs less.
- Avoid standing or sitting in one position for a long time. If your job requires you to sit for prolonged hours, move your legs frequently and try to flex your muscles to increase the blood flow.
- Keep your legs in an elevated position when you are resting.
- Take breaks between your work schedule and walk around for sometime.
Another thing that can provide relief from this condition is hydrotherapy, i.e. taking alternate cold and hot baths to improve circulation in the legs. Reflexology, yoga and regular massages are some other effective options to get relief from the pain and discomfort caused by varicose veins.