Dr. Roy Varghese MS, DNB, Ph.D, FSVS (USA), Vascular Surgeon, Jubilee Mission Medical College, Trichur, Kerala answers varicose vein related queries.
This is Part 1 of 3.
This section addresses the Causes and Nature of varicose veins.
Also see Part 2 (use of compression stockings for treatment of varicose veins) and Part 3 (surgical options for varicose veins).
- What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are twisted enlarged veins seen under the surface of the skin, caused by weak or damaged valves in the veins resulting in the accumulation of impure blood in these veins.
- How are spider veins different from varicose veins?
Spider veins are smaller than varicose veins and appears like tree branches or spider webs in red or blue colour. They can be caused by backed up blood, hormone changes in the body, exposure to sun or injuries.
- What are the early symptoms of varicose veins?
Varicose veins are often be seen raised above the skin and following signs can also be associated with:
- Aching legs that may get worse after sitting or standing for long time
- Throbbing or cramping on legs
- Swelling and heaviness of legs
- Itching and skin rashes
- Darkening of skin
- Are varicose veins hereditary?
Family history is one of the main risk factors for developing varicose veins. The risk factor doubles in case of both parents having the problem.
- Are varicose veins seen during pregnancy? Will they vanish after child birth?
The extra blood and hormones produced in the body during pregnancy, to support the growth of the baby, put extra pressure on blood vessels and lead to varicose veins.
The varicose veins that develop during pregnancy usually disappear within a few months to a year after delivery, when mother recovers from the vascular and hormonal changes of pregnancy. How ever few women do develop pregnancy related varicose vein.
- Is the onset varicose veins any way linked to life style ie, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, consumption of alcohol, junk food etc.?
Yes, smoking, consumption of alcohol, lack of exercise, high cholesterol levels increases the risk of developing varicose veins.
- Are varicose veins as prevalent in India as in western countries?
Yes. There is no significant statistical difference in the prevalence.
- Can I do anything to prevent varicose veins?
Through the following steps you can reduce the chance of getting varicose veins:
- Calf muscle and foot exercises help to improve the blood circulation and vein strength. Focus on exercises such as walking and jogging. Running causes high pressure changes.
- Wearing compression stockings during pregnancy helps to reduce pregnancy helps to reduce pregnancy related varicose veins.
- Control weight to avoid placing too much pressure on your legs.
- Avoid standing and sitting for long time. If it is unavoidable to stand for long shift your weight from one leg to the other every few minutes. When you have to sit for long stand up and move around or take a short walk every 30 minutes. Wearing a below knee stockings in such occasions will be more effective in preventing varicose veins.
- Wear elastic support energising stockings with graduated pressure and avoid tight clothing that constricts your waist, groin or legs.
- Avoid wearing high heels, low heeled shoes with arch support can help to strengthen your calf muscles and help the blood to flow back to the heart.
- Avoid high cholesterol diet. Eat low-salt, high-fibre foods.
- Control diabetes, thyroid and other metabolic diseases, which cause decreased muscle tone, with regular medication.
- Which doctor should I consult if I notice varicose veins? Should I consult straight to a Vascular Surgeon or can my General Physician help me with initial care?
Your General Physician may diagnose varicose veins and give you recommendations for treatment. You may have to consult with an Endo-Vascular Surgeon for the specialised treatment of varicose veins.
- Do varicose veins happen only in legs? Can they happen in hands also? If not, why?
Varicose veins can develop any where in your body including hands. They are commonly seen in legs as the effect of gravity is experienced more on the legs.