What is a Varicose Vein?

Varicose veins are large and twisted veins found on the leg. These ropelike veins, which are larger than spider viens, can cause a great deal of swelling, pain, and itching to those that suffer from them. Unfortunately, nearly 25% of adult women and 15% of adult men are dealing with varicose veins.

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

In addition to the site of the large, bulging, blue colored vein, there are a number of symptoms associated with varicose veins. These symptoms include:

  • Discolored and shiny skin around the veins, often of a brownish-blue color
  • Swelling of the ankles
  • Dry, itchy skin over the vein, which can lead to eczema
  • Heavy and achy legs, which often becomes worse at night
  • Darker skin around the area because waste products are building up in the legs
  • Excessive bleeding in the area after a minor injury in the area or taking longer to heal than normal
  • Bleeding from a ruptures vein (this is a rare occurrence)
  • Shrinkage of the skin above the ankle, called lipodermatosclerosis, as a result of the fat under the skin becoming hard (this is a rare occurrence)

Causes of Varicose Veins

There are a number of potential causes of varicose veins, including genetics and being a woman. Obesity, pregnancy, aging, leg injury, prolonged standing, hot weather, and abdominal straining can all lead to varicose veins.

To better understand varicose viens, it is necessary to understand more about the body's system. Within the leg, the veins are divided into a deep system and a superficial system. Perforating veins connects these two systems. The venous blood travels to the heart from the legs and then flows through one-way valves located in the veins. In the case of varicose veins, these valves are leaky and cause the blood to flow down instead of up. As a result, the veins get congested and blood becomes backflowed, causing the veins to get large.

The problem with the valves in the vein system can be at two different points where the deep system and the superficial system join the perforating veins: behind the knee or at the groin. Leaks in the deep system are rare, making most cases in the lower leg area.

Coping with Varicose Veins

The itching and general irritation of varicose veins can be somewhat controlled through the use of anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen. There is, however, a risk of intestinal bleeding when taking these medications. Regular exercise, going barefoot, and wading through water can also help reduce the symptoms.

Perhaps the best way to deal with varicose veins, however, is through laser treatment. In fact, a 2004 study of 270 people with varicose veins concluded that laser treatment of the problem is highly successful. Despite being a minimally invasive treatment, every person in the study was able to successfully get rid of his or her varicose veins. When these same people were checked on one year later, 261 of the 270 patients still had no sign of varicose veins.

These results are outstanding when compared to other traditional surgeries used to remove varicose veins. Prior to this procedure, those with varicose veins had to undergo a painful surgery that involved removing the veins or cutting of the blood flow to the veins by injecting tem with a chemical. To remove the veins, the patient had to endure an incision in the grown and several additional incisions in the leg. To further complicate matters, neither of these procedures resolved the problem. In fact, most patients required multiple treatments as other veins became problematic following surgery.

Varicose veins are painful, itchy, and unattractive. Yet, those suffering from the problem had little help available because surgical procedures to correct the problem were short lived and painful. Luckily, varicose vein laser surgery can be performed instead. This procedure, which is performed on an outpatient basis and is far less painful than previous procedures, is more successful at providing relief to those who suffer from the problem.