Varicose veins are enlarged blood veins that appear raised and are often blue or deep purple in color. This happens when blood valves weaken and the blood within pools backwards, creating raised and discolored veins. While varicose veins are usually harmless, they can cause pain or indicate other circulatory issues.
Signs and Symptoms of Varicose Veins
The most prominent symptom of varicose veins is discolored and bulging veins that occur in legs and feet. They may look like cords around your legs. For many people varicose veins are a cosmetic concern, yet they can cause pain and discomfort. Severe varicose vein symptoms include:
- Burning, cramping or throbbing
- Increased pain after sitting or standing for extended periods of time
- Itching around the veins
Causes and Risk Factors
Varicose veins in your legs form when the valves in your veins lose their elasticity. Your veins work to return blood from your legs to your heart, so they’re working against gravity. There are several other risk factors that could make a person more susceptible to developing varicose veins, such as:
- Family history
- Gender – Women are more likely to develop varicose veins due to hormone changes throughout their lives
- Age – Varicose veins form as aging causes wear on the valves in your veins
- Obesity – Excess weight puts more pressure on already taxed valves
- Standing or sitting for extended periods of time – These positions allow blood to pool around weak valves
Pregnancy and Varicose Veins
Pregnant women may develop varicose veins during the course of their pregnancy. While pregnancy may increase the volume of blood in your body, this also draws blood flow from your legs to your pelvis. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also lead to varicose veins. Fortunately, varicose veins that occur during pregnancy tend to improve after giving birth.
Aging and Varicose Veins
Aging is not easy on the body. People over the age of 40 are at an increased risk of developing varicose veins. While varicose veins tend to be a cosmetic issue for some people, there are heavier risks that come with aging. Blood that has pooled inside the veins can lead to blood clots, which may appear as hard, tender lumps on the legs. Leaving these clots untreated could lead to many severe conditions, such as deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism, should the clot break up and become lodged within the veins in the lungs.
Image source: By self – Own work, Public Domain, Wikipedia Commons
Severity and Treatments
Varicose vein bruising and pain may be indicators of a more severe condition, so it is always wise to consult with your doctor. As mentioned, untreated varicose veins could cause pulmonary embolism (a serious medical condition that requires prompt medical treatment) and deep vein thrombosis. Other severe issues that may develop include:
- Skin ulcers and sores which may be painful and hard to heal
- Significant bleeding caused by thin skin over the veins becoming injured
- Superficial thrombophlebitis, a blood clot that forms just under the skin
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