Varicose veins is a part of a larger disease group called Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Chronic venous insufficiency is an umbrella term for many different vein problems like varicose veins. Chronic venous insufficiency leads to leg swelling, skin darkening, and thickening most commonly in the legs. When we walk, the calf muscles contribute to almost 70% of the venous blood being pumped back to the heart.
When the valves in the veins are damaged due to any reason, the blood pools back in the leg veins. This leads to a rise in the pressure in the veins of the legs causing swelling and heaviness. The blood pooling leads to changes in color and thickness of the skin which are seen in Varicose veins. Slow blood flows into the vein may even lead to the formation of blood clots.
What are Varicose veins?
Varicose veins are one of the most common conditions that arise out of chronic venous insufficiency. When veins are swollen, enlarged and twisted, they are said to be varicose. These veins often appear bluish or purple in color. This occurs when the valves become faulty allowing a backflow of blood.
Causes of varicose veins
Veins are equipped with valves to prevent backflow and allow the blood to flow in only one direction i.e. towards the heart. When one or more valves get damaged, the blood slowly seeps backward which eventually leads to pooling of blood. This accumulation of blood in the veins makes them enlarged, elongated and twisted. The veins farthest from the heart, such as the veins in the legs, are the most affected as they have to pump the blood upwards against gravity. While the exact cause is not yet known, a few conditions increase the risk for varicose veins, such as:
- Standing for long hours
- Family history of varicose veins
- Age over 50 years
Symptoms of varicose veins include:
- Pain in the legs
- Heaviness in legs, especially after exercise
- Swelling in ankles
- Spider-like bluish-purple veins
- Darkening of the overlying skin
- Skin itching or eczema in severe cases
- Cramps in legs
- Venous ulcers
Compression stockings, regular walks, avoiding standing for long hours continuously and losing extra weight are important in the management of chronic venous insufficiency. Also, elevating the legs to reduce pressure in the leg veins in the evenings is also vital.
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