Varicose Veins: What Is It?

Arteries are blood vessels which transport blood from the heart to our organs which veins transport blood from the organs back to the heart.

Blood is prevented from flowing backwards by tiny valves along the veins which open and close to let blood through in one direction, namely back towards the heart.

The veins of the lower limbs can be either superficial (just under the skin) and deep (under the muscle).

Varicose veins are swollen and enlarged superficial veins which develop when these small valves are damaged or don’t work properly.

Risk Factors

Factors which can increase your chances of developing varicose veins include:

  • female
  • older age
  • overweight
  • pregnancy
  • abdominal mass such as fibroids
  • having a job that involves long periods of standing

Symptoms and stages of varicose veins

Symptoms of varicose veins include pain which is usually described as heaviness or aching pain leg swelling, itchiness and dark pigmentation of the skin. Severe cases of varicose veins can lead to skin ulcer formation which is slow to heal.

Complications include bleeding, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), thrombophlebitis (painful inflammation of the veins) and varicose eczema.

When do you need to see a doctor?

Do not wait until the varicose veins become so bad that it becomes difficult to treat. The earlier it gets treated, the higher the chances of a good outcome. It should be treated when there are symptoms such as itching, bleeding or swelling.


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