Varicose veins

summary about varicose veins

Varicose veins are a cosmetic condition of the veins, which especially affects the legs. Varicose veins can occur in both women and men, with a female predominance. The causes of varicose veins are varied. This can be genetic, hormonal (pregnancy, taking birth control pills), age (loss of elasticity of the venous walls, loosening of the valves).

As a general rule, varicose veins are not dangerous, but they can cause a serious complication: deep vein thrombosis. Stagnant venous blood in a varicose vein can form a blood clot. It can break loose, travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.

Medical diagnosis is easy because the veins are visible. However, it is always necessary to exclude deep venous thrombosis, which is why the doctor can use more advanced diagnostic methods, such as: radiography, ultrasound, ecodoppler.

Simple measures in cases of uncomplicated varicose veins may be enough, such as: sports, raising the legs, applying cold showers along the legs or wearing compression stockings. When the veins are very visible, the doctor may resort to injection with a sclerosing solution or surgery (removal of the diseased vein using a surgical hook).

There are also drugs against varicose veins: phlebotonics, also called venotonics.

Varicose veins are pathological dilations of superficial veins (usually in the legs) due to a malfunction of the valves.

Through the bloodstream, all body organs are supplied with oxygen and essential nutrients for their proper functioning. Blood is pumped by the heart and carried to the organs through the arteries. Veins allow blood to return to the heart.

To fight gravity, the veins in the legs are equipped with valves that prevent blood from flowing back down due to gravity. Valves open and close to help return blood through the veins.

When the valves do not work well or when the veins are dilated (under the action of progesterone during pregnancy, for example), the opening created allows blood to flow back into the section of the defective vein. Which also deforms the vein and new varicose veins appear.

Varicose veins are not only visible and unpleasant, but in addition they cause disorders such as heaviness in the legs (heavy legs), pain, swelling in the ankles.

In the long term, varicose veins can cause thrombosis or ulcers.

Blood stagnation in the veins can cause a clot to form, which can cause thrombosis to form.

Epidemiology

Varicose veins affect women more often than men, they are 4 times more common in women than men. Women are more likely to develop varicose veins than men.

Varicose veins are caused due to genetic and hormonal factors. This explains the higher incidence of varicose veins in women compared to men. Women are also at greater risk due to hormonal changes experienced during pregnancy or when taking birth control pills, for example. Hormones, including progesterone, cause the veins to dilate, and in the long term, varicose veins (varicose veins) appear.

Almost one in two women are affected at one time or another by venous insufficiency problems (varicose veins, heavy legs, …). One in ten men suffer from varicose veins.

Varicose veins occur more often with age. This can easily be explained by wear and tear, which causes the veins as well as the valves to relax. Good muscle tone allows for better blood circulation, including venous circulation. When the muscle is stretched, more blood can return from the legs to the heart. With age, the muscle mass also tends to relax and therefore leads to a worse functioning of the venous system.

Causes

Physiological origin
Veins allow blood to return to the heart and valves prevent the backflow of blood. When the valves are defective, there is stagnation and accumulation of blood in the legs and the formation of varicose veins.

Varicose veins of primary or secondary origin Varicose
veins are generally considered to be of essential or primary origin, which means that several risk factors can lead to varicose veins. However, in a small proportion (about 5%), varicose veins can be secondary, that is, they appear as a result of phlebitis or compression of a venous segment.1.

The main risk factors of primary origin are:
– age
– sex (women)
– genetics
– pregnancy
– weight (overweight, obesity)
– behavior (long periods standing or sitting)

Groups of risk

As we saw in the causes of varicose veins section, the risk groups are mainly:

– Elderly people

– The women

– Pregnant women

– People with an overweight

– People who move little (who remain seated or standing for a long time)

Symptoms

In general, varicose veins form a network of bluish and thin blood vessels (veins blocked with blood), however, in the bend of the knees, they can appear as thick and bulging veins.
Varicose veins grow when vessel walls (like veins) become more fragile and dilate. There is then an increase in the size of the vessels (dilation of the veins) and a deformation of the structure. These changes are non-linear shapes, with blue or red coloring.

In most cases this condition is not painful, however, in certain cases, they may be accompanied by:
– feeling of heaviness in the legs
– pain (the pain increases during a long period of standing or sitting)
– swelling in the heels.

These symptoms can be explained in this way: the occurrence of varicose veins affects the blood flow. The latter affects the flow within the vessels (veins here), which makes it more difficult for blood to pass through and can cause pain. Poor circulation can lead to the development of thrombosis (the most serious complication of varicose veins).

In the most serious cases, poor blood circulation causes changes in the skin of the legs. The symptoms are then:

– Skin discoloration

– Skin irritation

– Sensation of pruritus (itching)

– Ulcers on the skin, especially near the ankles. These ulcers can be a sign of venous insufficiency and require medical consultation.

Diagnosis

Varicose veins are visible and easily identifiable. They are formed, in general, at the level of superficial veins, just below the skin.

The diagnosis (called phlebological examination) consists, first of all, of the patient’s history (anamnesis), clinical part (identification of varicose veins by clinical examination). These tests can be performed by a general practitioner.

The anamnesis can gather important information, including genetic causes (family members with varicose veins or not), gender and age of the patient.

In the clinical examination, the doctor identifies the presence or absence of varicose veins and their appearance: size, color, length, etc.

Depending on the severity of the disease, the doctor may order an ultrasound of the leg veins or an X-ray (phlebography).

Another method consists of studying the topography of the veins and examining the deep veins: the ecodoppler. This is the method of choice for diagnosing varicose veins and especially for avoiding serious complications from varicose veins such as deep vein thrombosis.

The objective is to know the severity of the venous insufficiency and mainly to discover the serious cases of deep venous thrombosis, which can cause a pulmonary embolism and risk the patient’s life.

In general, when the leg swells up suddenly, with severe pain, medical consultation is urgent and necessary.

Complications

In general, this condition is benign and can be easily treated with simple measures (hygienic and medication). However, untreated or improperly treated varicose veins can cause:

– Skin lesions and ulcers

– Phlebitis or occlusion of a vein by a blood clot (thrombosis).

Lesions on the skin (cutaneous)

When varicose veins are not treated properly, skin lesions on the leg can occur. First of all, such lesions are called dermatitis. They cause irritation and pruritus (itching). Then, if the condition gets worse, varicose veins can cause the appearance of varicose ulcers (= ulcers due to varicose veins). A varicose ulcer is an open wound, usually on the skin of the leg, that heals poorly and can become more infected.

Inflammation of the veins (phlebitis)

In cases of phlebitis, there is formation of a blood clot that blocks the vein. This clot can migrate to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism, which is often fatal. Phlebitis occurs mainly in the deep veins of the legs. Thus, upon the occurrence of varicose veins, especially painful ones, the physician must first exclude the risk of deep vein thrombosis, which can be dangerous for the patient’s life.

Treatments

There are several treatments against varicose veins, medicated or not.

– The walk

– Decreased weight gain

– The use of compression stockings (they help with venous return), in the center of varicose veins therapy

– Injections of sclerosing products into the diseased vein

– Phlebotonic medicines (which help venous circulation)

– Surgery (stripping: removal of diseased veins)

Injection of a sclerosing agent (sclerotherapy)

Injection of the sclerosing agent (liquid or foam) is possible when the varicose veins are small. The liquid causes the vein to become inflamed and blocked, the blood stops circulating and the varicose veins disappear. This is not dangerous, because venous blood will pass through other veins. This method is painless and has no side effects.

Surgery (stripping)

Surgery is performed when the veins are larger. This is done in a hospital under general anesthesia. The aim is to section (cut) the diseased vein and remove it with a hook. Venous circulation is maintained through the deep veins. This method is quick and painless. Bruising may occur. A three-week work stoppage is recommended to reduce efforts. It is also recommended to wear compression stockings after surgery.

– application of cold compresses on the veins, vasoconstrictor effect

Phlebotonic drugs

– Plants that help the vascular system: horse chestnut, red vine . These drugs can be applied to the skin (ointment) or swallowed (capsules).

– Ointment based on heparin

Other therapies
There are other therapeutic methods, such as laser surgery (in English: laser surgery ), useful especially for small varicose veins, or surgery by venous endoscopy (in English: endoscopic vein sur gery), indicated especially in cases of severe varicose veins. with formation of skin ulcers.

Note:
It is important to note that varicose veins caused by pregnancy often get better on their own within 1 year of giving birth.

Herbal medicine

The medicinal plants mentioned below have been shown to be effective in combating varicose veins:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information about herbal medicine, which is often used as a complementary measure to other treatments.

– The red vine (in capsule, gel, infusion or cream)

– Gilbarbeira (in capsule) 

– Horse chestnut (in capsule, decoction, gel or cream)

  The  blueberry (in capsule)

– the rue

Tips

 People who suffer from varicose veins can also use the tips as a form of prevention, to avoid making the varicose veins worse.

 Varicose veins can lead to thrombosis, so it is essential that these people:

1. Move often during long plane or car trips, for example. On the plane, while the “fasten seat belt” sign is turned off, it is advisable to perform simple exercises such as turning your feet in circles, moving back and forth, standing up and walking. When traveling by car, it is essential to make frequent stops to stretch your legs and take a few steps to activate blood circulation.

So, for people with varicose veins, the main rule is: Avoid standing or sitting, it is better to walk or lie down.

2. Wear compression stockings . It is also highly recommended to wear compression stockings on long journeys by plane or car. Pregnant women should also wear these compression stockings.

3. Apply cold compresses to the varicose veins (cold exerts a vasoconstrictor effect that helps with healing)

Prevention

Avoid static positions (long sitting or standing). Try changing position and moving around. So, prefer walking or lying down. Walking helps tone your muscles. By stretching the muscles, the veins shrink and the venous return is better. Thus, in a static position (standing or sitting), venous circulation is poorer. It is recommended to move your legs or walk. This advice is especially important for people involved in jobs where a lot of standing is required or for those people who take long trips by plane or car.

– Move your legs around a lot, especially if you sit for a long time.

– Elevate your legs before going to sleep. A simple pillow under the legs is enough.

– Massage your legs regularly. But pay attention that massage is not recommended during deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

– Soak your legs in cold water to stimulate blood circulation.

– Wear compression stockings (especially during pregnancy and overweight, as well as during long trips).

– Lose weight if you are overweight.

– Wear comfortable shoes and avoid wearing high heels.

– Avoid smoking.

Jeanne Kenney
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I’m a stylist trainer, a content creator, and an entrepreneur passion. Virgo sign and Pisces ascendant, I move easily between my dreams, the crazy world I want, and my feet on the ground to carry out my projects.

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