Sufferers of this condition experience bulging veins that are bluish or purplish in color running beneath the skin surface. Even though they are considered harmless, varicose veins can be disfiguring and painful. When inflamed, veins become tender and hinder circulation thus causing itchy skin, aching limbs and swollen ankles.
In addition to the surface network of veins, your legs also have another venous network lying deep in your skin. These interior veins do not normally become varicose but in extreme cases they do. This can potentially cause swelling and aching throughout the leg.
Causes of Varicose Veins
The structure of your arteries consists of layers of elastic tissue or muscle which help them to contract and relax thereby pushing oxygen-rich blood all the way from the lung to all other parts of the body. On its way back to the heart, deoxygenated blood depends on a network of veins and muscles. These veins contain valves which are one-way and act as small gates for opening and closing to allow the flow of blood and prevent back-flows.
When the veins becomes varicose, the valves cease to work properly hence causing blood to pool in the veins. This pooling increases venous pressure and the likelihood of blood congestion further causing the veins to twist and bulge. The reason why superficial veins are more vulnerable to varicose is because of their thin muscles that support them.
In essence, any condition that exerts pressure on the abdomen or legs can cause varicose veins. The most common inducers of pressure include obesity, age, pregnancy and standing for longer time periods. Tumors and chronic constipation have also been cited as risk factors in the development of varicose veins. Sedentary lifestyles puts individuals at a higher risk of varicose compared to active lifestyles because the muscles become lax and offer less-than optimal support in blood pumping.
As people age, their veins weaken as well as their valves. This puts them at a higher risk of varicose veins. This combined with other factors such as previous leg injuries, genetics, and gender may contribute to varicose veins.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
One of the most visible symptoms of varicose veins is the appearance of swollen, twisted or bluish veins beneath the surface of the skin. However, there are other symptoms that may signal a developing or existing varicose veins condition.
Heaviness, burning or a dull ache in the legs – This symptom is linked to the accumulating blood in the veins and it is more noticeable either late in the day or after standing for a long time.
Mild swelling – The parts of the body commonly affected by the swelling are the feet and ankles.
Itching skin along the varicose vein – The stagnation of blood along the venous system usually cause inflammation which comes with itching. It should be noted that on their own, itching varicose veins may not qualify to signal a varicose condition. However, when considered together with other related symptoms, it may be a helpful clue.
Superficial thrombophlebitis – When inflammation and a blood clot develop in small veins close to the surface of the skin, they may point towards varicose vein condition.
Apart from the above symptoms, others such as ulcerations and bleeding following a minor injury may signal varicose veins.
Treatment of Varicose Veins
There are various ways of addressing varicose veins and the most recommended is home treatment particularly in cases that are not very serious. In home treatment, the main focus is to relieve the symptoms, prevent complications such as bleeding or sores and slow the progress of varicose veins. Many people have recovered fully after a few rounds of home treatment. Among the home treatment options include wearing of compression stockings, doing exercises, observing your weight, and avoiding long standing or sitting periods. Where home treatment does not fully address your varicose veins, you may have to seek surgical procedures.
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