Our veins help to carry blood from all organs of our body towards our heart, and also store unused blood that goes into the bloodstream when needed.
When the blood stored in the veins does not circulate in the body the way it should, it leads to a condition known as varicose veins. It can be an extremely painful and uncomfortable situation, but one that you can prevent and treat with timely care.
What Causes Varicose Veins
The main reason that causes varicose veins is when your veins do not function properly, due to the ill-functioning of the valves present in them. The main use of these valves is to prevent any stored blood from flowing backwards. But when they do not function properly, the blood starts flowing backwards instead of moving towards the heart, and accumulates in the vein. As a result, the veins become swollen. This mostly happens in the veins present in your legs, because once the blood collects here, it becomes difficult for it to flow back up.
You are also at a high risk of varicose veins if:
- You are pregnant
- You are overweight or obese, which can tend to put more pressure on your legs
- You are in your menopause
- You are in a type of work role that requires you to stand for long hours at a stretch
- You end up putting pressure on your abdominal area a lot
The main symptoms of varicose veins are:
- Swelling in your veins and change in the regular shape and look of the veins
- Pain, swelling and heaviness in your legs
- Discolouration in your ankle area
- Swelling or ulcers in your ankle area
Once you suspect you have varicose veins, make sure to get in touch with your doctor immediately. For the diagnosis, your doctor will use the following methods:
- Do A Physical Examination: Your doctor will examine your legs and check the condition of your veins as it appears when you stand or sit down. The doctor will also physically examine the vein and surrounding area to check for any swelling or pain.
- Ultrasound Or Angiogram Test:In some cases, your doctor will ask for an ultrasound to see the way the blood is flowing. Though rare, your doctor may also ask for an angiogram, which is a type of X-ray test in which the doctor will inject a dye in your legs and do an X-ray of the area. It will help your doctor to understand the blood flow in better detail. Both the ultrasound and the angiogram tests will also help your doctor to rule out any other medical issue such as a blood clot or any type of blockage, as these can also often lead to pain and swelling in the leg.
- Surgery: Your doctor will suggest surgery only when other options do not work, and the condition is too painful and interferes with your daily life. The doctor will use incisions to remove the varicose veins, but will only do it if the condition is affecting your health. It takes about 3 to 6 weeks to recover from the surgery.
- Compression Therapy: Special compression stockings are available that you can wear on your leg to apply the right type of pressure on the affected area. This type of controlled pressure will help the blood to flow toward the heart instead of accumulating in the veins. Your doctor will suggest what will work best for you.
- Radiofrequency Or Laser Therapy: These two procedures can help to remove the varicose veins, or prevent the blood flow that collects in the veins. However, there is a risk that you could experience swelling or some form of bruising immediately after the procedure is done.
The following changes in your lifestyle can help you reduce your chances of developing varicose veins.
- Take occasional breaks in between standing for long hours. Move around, walk and stretch your legs.
- Exercise regularly to keep your weight in check and reduce the amount of pressure you exert on your legs. It will also help to strengthen your legs.
- Avoid going out in the sun for too long and avoid crossing your legs on top of the other for long.
Even with various lifestyle changes, it is possible that you could get varicose veins. Speak to your doctor the moment you notice any symptoms to avoid the condition from getting worse.