Varicose Vein: Your Comprehensive Guide

If you have noticed swollen, twisted veins on your legs that are blue or purple in color, you may have varicose veins. Varicose veins are a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Symptoms often include heaviness, aching, and visible veins, while severe cases can lead to complications like skin ulcers and blood clots.

Varicose Veins

This comprehensive guide aims to enlighten you about this condition, from what they are and how they form, to how they are diagnosed and treated. We will also share tips to prevent varicose veins and maintain a healthy circulatory system.

Varicose Vein

What are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged blood vessels. They form when vein valves become weak or damaged. Veins carry blood from the body back to the heart. These veins have one-way valves. These valves stop blood from flowing backward. However, these valves can sometimes malfunction. This allows blood to pool in the veins. This pooling causes the veins to stretch and bulge. This leads to the formation of varicose veins.

They can vary in size and shape, from small spider veins that look like thin red or blue lines on the skin, to large rope-like veins that protrude from the surface of the skin.

Varicose Vein

How do Varicose Veins Form?

Several factors contribute to varicose vein formation. Here are some:

  • Age: As we get older, our veins lose elasticity and our valves become weaker. This makes it harder for the blood to flow upward against gravity.
  • Genetics: Some inherit a tendency to develop varicose veins. They may have weaker or fewer valves in their veins.
  • Hormones: Hormonal changes during pregnancy, menopause, or when using birth control pills can affect the tone and elasticity of the veins. These factors can also increase blood volume, pressurizing veins.
  • Obesity: Excess weight strains veins and impairs blood circulation. This can cause the valves in the veins to malfunction and lead to varicose veins.
  • Occupation: Standing or sitting for long can cause varicose veins. Lack of muscle contraction reduces leg blood flow. It also increases pressure on veins.
  • Injury: Trauma to the legs can damage vein valves or walls. This can cause varicose veins.

Varicose Vein

What are the Symptoms and Signs of Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins may not cause any symptoms at first, but as they progress, they can cause various signs and symptoms.

Here are some of the common signs:

  • Swelling, aching, or heaviness in the legs
  • Cramping, throbbing, or burning sensations in the legs
  • Itching, tingling, or numbness around the varicose veins
  • Skin changes, such as dryness, discoloration, inflammation, or ulcers
  • Bleeding or infection of the varicose veins
  • Blood clots or phlebitis (inflammation of a vein)

Varicose Vein

Who is at Risk of Developing Varicose Veins?

Anyone can develop varicose veins, but some people are more likely to get them.

Some of the risk factors for varicose veins:

  • Gender: Women are more prone to developing varicose veins than men. This is partly due to hormonal influences that affect the vein walls and valves. Women also experience more changes in their blood volume and pressure during pregnancy and menstruation.
  • Family history: If you have a close relative who has varicose veins, you have a higher chance of getting them yourself.
  • Lifestyle: Sedentary lifestyles or jobs requiring prolonged sitting or standing can heighten the risk of developing varicose veins.
  • Medical conditions: If you have a history of blood clots, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, you may be more susceptible to developing varicose veins.

Varicose Vein

How are Varicose Veins Diagnosed?

If you suspect you have varicose veins, you should consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Your doctor will examine your legs and ask you about your symptoms and medical history. They may also perform some tests to confirm your diagnosis and rule out any underlying conditions that may be causing your varicose veins.

Some of these tests are:

  • Doppler ultrasound: This is a non-invasive test using sound waves to create images of the blood flow in your veins. It reveals the size, shape, and location of your varicose veins.
  • Venogram: This is an invasive test that involves injecting a contrast dye into your veins and taking X-rays of them. This test gives detailed information about your veins. It shows any blockages or abnormalities.
  • Duplex ultrasound: This is a combination of Doppler ultrasound and conventional ultrasound. It can provide both images and measurements of the blood flow and the vein walls.

Varicose Vein

What are the Complications of Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins can cause serious health problems if left untreated.

Some of these complications are:

  • Skin ulcers: These are open sores that develop on the skin near the varicose veins. Poor blood circulation and low oxygen levels in tissues cause them.They can be painful, infected, and hard to heal.
  • Bleeding: Varicose veins can rupture and bleed due to minor trauma or pressure. This can cause significant blood loss and require immediate medical attention.
  • Thrombophlebitis: This condition happens when a blood clot forms in a varicose vein. It causes inflammation, pain, and swelling. It can also block blood flow, leading to tissue damage or gangrene.
  • Pulmonary embolism: This is a life-threatening condition where a blood clot breaks off from a varicose vein and travels to the lungs, blocking the pulmonary artery. It can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing up blood, and even death.
  • Chronic venous insufficiency: This is a long-term condition where the varicose veins impair the blood flow in the legs, causing swelling, pain, skin changes, and ulcers. It can also affect other organs in the body, such as the kidneys, heart, and brain.

Varicose Vein

Treatment of Varicose Veins

These procedures can help prevent, minimize the progression, and treat the condition.


Sclerotherapy is used to eliminate varicose veins and spider veins. During this procedure, a solution called a sclerosant is injected directly into the vein. The sclerosant causes the lining of the vein to react, become irritated, and eventually clot and close off. Over time, the treated vein turns into scar tissue and fades away.

Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive procedure that can improve both the cosmetic appearance and symptoms associated with varicose veins.

Endovenous Laser Therapy:

Endovenous laser therapy (EVLT) is a minimally invasive treatment for varicose veins. It uses laser energy to cauterize (burn) and close the abnormal veins. During the procedure, a thin fiber is inserted into the varicose vein through a small entry point. The laser is activated and as the fiber is withdrawn, the laser energy causes the vein to collapse and seal shut. Over time, the vein is absorbed by the body.

This therapy has high success rates and offers a fast recovery time with minimal scarring.

Radiofrequency Ablation:

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive treatment for varicose veins. It uses radiofrequency energy to heat and contract the collagen in the vein walls, causing them to collapse and seal.

Similar to endovenous laser therapy, a thin catheter is inserted into the varicose vein. The catheter delivers radiofrequency energy to the vein wall, causing it to heat, collapse, and seal shut. Over time, the body absorbs the vein.

This procedure is known for its high success rates, low complication rates, and quick recovery time.

Intra-Venous Radiofrequency:

Intra-venous radiofrequency involves the delivery of radiofrequency energy directly into the vein using a thin catheter, which leads to the closure of the vein. The procedure is guided by ultrasound imaging to ensure precise delivery of treatment.

The benefits of intra-venous radiofrequency include it being a minimally invasive treatment option, often performed in an outpatient setting with local anesthesia, leading to a quick recovery and return to normal activities. It is also associated with high patient satisfaction due to its effectiveness and minimal discomfort.

We are here to help!

Understanding varicose veins—how to prevent, treat, and live with them—enables better management of the condition. The importance of early treatment to prevent complications can't be overstated. If you have varicose veins or are at risk, don't hesitate to take the necessary action today and contact Welfare Abroad for a healthier tomorrow.

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