Varicose veins can be relatively common. In medical terms, they are dilated superficial veins of the lower limb, most commonly due to venous reflux stemming from weakened valvular valves or genetic factors.
For most patients, standing and walking for prolonged periods increases the pressure in the veins of the lower limb resulting in twisted torturous veins. These appear as blue and purple bulges that are itchy or painful.
Risk Factors of Varicose Veins
Multiple risk factors are associated with the development of varicose veins, including:
- Age: Weakened venous valves commonly occur with age.
- Gender: Women are more likely to suffer from varicose veins, sometimes due to hormonal changes.
- Family history: Those with family members that have varicose veins are more likely to suffer from them as well.
- Lifestyle: Standing for extended periods increases the risk of varicose veins. Obesity is also a risk factor.
- Smoking: Tobacco use significantly affects the risk score.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
A doctor will diagnose varicose veins in the office, and it’s important to see an expert to avoid confusing these with spider veins. Here are common symptoms of varicose veins:
- Bulging veins: Blue/purple twisted dilated web-like veins are visible on the skin, typically appearing near the ankles and feet.
- Itching: Itching is common near affected veins.
- Pain and swelling: Dilation results in swelling and pain in the legs, predominantly behind the knee. One might experience throbbing, pulsing pain.
- Ulcers or discoloration: These blue discolorations might turn brown without medical attention.
Complications of Varicose Veins
It’s essential to talk to your doctor about any veins that seem irregular. There are many complications stemming from varicose veins, including:
- Blood clots
- Bleeding: Minor bleeding can occur close to the skin.
- Ulceration: These might occur in regions near the varicose veins.
- Deep Venous thrombosis: Varicose veins increase the risk of Deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
- Pulmonary embolism: Research suggests that varicose veins increase the likelihood of developing pulmonary embolism.
Dangerous Signs of Varicose Veins
When looking at your potential varicose veins, certain signs warrant immediate attention. Seek medical help quickly if you notice the following.
- Darker skin patches
- Bleeding veins
- Persistent pain and swelling
- Hot and tender veins
Other signs of complications are:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heart rate
- Blood in sputum
When Should I Seek Medical Care?
Always speak with your doctor about any concerns or if pain occurs. Your physician may talk to you about certain activities to reduce the risk of varicose veins. These include:
- Avoid wearing high heels
- Strenuous exercising and reducing weight
- Dietary changes such as using less salt and more fiber
- Change your position regularly
Because varicose veins can lead to other serious health risks, you must consult a specialist if you have any concerns.
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