Varicose Veins – Causes and Symptoms of Varicose Veins

When the veins become enlarged, dilated, thickened and tortuous, these are called Varicose Veins. Generally, Varicose veins refer to the leg, but can occur anywhere in the body. Veins have valves that prevent the backward flowing of the blood. Taking into consideration the leg veins, the muscles of the leg pump the veins to return the blood back to the heart. The pumping action is necessary to act against the gravity.

In this condition the veins are unable to return blood to the heart. Instead, the impure blood flows back into the veins causing a blockage. This is an extremely painful and common condition that usually occurs in the legs (these veins are the most vulnerable as they are the furthest from the heart).

But when the veins are thickened, the leaflets of the valves do not meet properly. Hence their function becomes improper. The blood starts flowing backwards making the veins even more enlarged. Superficial veins are are more prone to such conditions because they are subjected to high levels of pressure in standing condition. Such vein condition is painful during standing and walking. Itching is a common symptom felt on these veins. But scratching leads to another complication of ulcers. But the seriousness of complications are rare in happening.

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

  • Aching and heaviness in legs
  • Symptoms getting worse at night
  • Symptoms getting worse after exercise
  • Spider veins may be observed on the affected leg
  • Swelling may be observed in the ankle
  • Skin may be observed discolored to a brownish-blue shiny color near the affected veins
  • Itching, reddening and dryness of the skin may be felt (because of the accumulation of waste products in the leg)
  • Cramps may occur making a sudden movement like standing or sitting
  • Abnormally excess bleeding may be seen with minor injury
  • Skin located above the ankle may appear shrinked (because of the hardening of the fat under the skin)
  • Restless legs syndrome is an common clinical syndrome in patients
  • Whitened and irregular in shape patches resembling scars may appear at the ankles (atrophie blanche)

Stages of Varicose Veins

  • C0 – This is the preliminary stage where no visible signs or palpable signs of the disease is observed.
  • C1 – The stage next to C0 is the telangectasia or reticular veins.
  • C2 – Then veins start getting thickened.
  • C3 – Edema is observed in patients.
  • C4a – Venous disorder lead to changes in the skin (eczema or pigmentation).
  • C4b – Other severe changes are observed in the skin due to venous disorders (lipodermatosclerosis, atrophie blanche).
  • C5 – This stage is similar to C4 but differs slightly with onset of healed ulcers.
  • C6 – Active ulcers on the skin changes the skin (venous insufficiency ulceration).

Complications in Venous Disorder
Most cases of varicose veins are benign, but some rare sever cases can lead to major complications. This occurs when the circulation gets extremely restricted to the affected limb. The following symptoms may be observed –

  • Pain and heaviness in the affected limb
  • Inability to stand or walk for long hours
  • Dermatitis (a skin condition) leading to skin loss
  • Skin ulcers appearing near the ankle (venous ulcers)
  • Venous ulcers leading to development of sarcoma or carcinoma
  • Severe bleeding may be seen from minor trauma (common in elderly people)
  • Clotting of blood may be seen in affected veins (superficial thrombophlebitis). This is a common condition in the superficial veins but when the deep veins get affected, it can cause serious problem.
  • Occurrence of acute fat necrosis at the ankle (common in overweight patients and females are more prone).

Causes of Veins becoming thick
Females are more prone to have varicose veins. The prime cause of this condition is heredity. But other causative factors may include –

  • aging
  • abdominal straining
  • injury in the leg
  • obesity
  • menopause
  • pregnancy
  • prolonged standing
  • postphlebitic obstruction and/or incontinence
  • venous and arteriovenous malformations

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