Varicose veins are caused by swelling and loss of elasticity of the vein particularly in the legs. Varicose veins are swollen veins that lie under your skin. They look lumpy and dark blue or purple through the skin. They usually affect your legs, particularly your calf and sometimes your thigh but can occur in your hands, nose and face.The stagnating blood can then cause them to become swollen and twisted and result is considerable aching and fatigue in the legs. Varicose veins are very common, affecting up to a third of population and. affecting more women than men.
Superficial veins – these lie under your skin and include the long and short saphenous veins. The saphenous veins are connected to the deep veins inside your legs by perforator veins. When blood doesn't flow properly from your superficial veins to your deep veins, pressure can build up. This is often due to problems with the one way valves that stop blood leaking back into your superficial veins. This results in blood collecting or pooling in your superficial veins and this results in a dark and twisted appearance which then become varicose veins.
Symptoms - In the early stages, varicose veins may not give rise to any symptoms other than a vein which is visible or more prominent As well as their distinctive appearance, symptoms of varicose veins can include: aching, heavy and uncomfortable legs, unexplained feelings of tiredness in the legs, swollen feet and ankles, burning or throbbing in your legs, muscle cramp in your legs, particularly at night, restless legs and dry, itchy and thin skin over the affected vein. There may also be the appearance of small ‘snake-like’ veins known as ‘spider veins’ (telangiectasia.)
These symptoms are usually worse during warm weather or if you’ve been standing up for long periods of time. They may improve when you walk around or if you rest and raise your legs up. Pillows are a good way to raise your legs up comfortably.
As mentioned previously varicose veins usually develop on the legs, either on the back of your calf or on the inside of your leg. However, they can also sometimes occur in other parts of your body, which may not be immediately visible: Here we can be talking about the gullet (oesophagus), womb (uterus), vagina, pelvis and rectum (back passage). The symptoms for these other areas need proper diagnosis and if you have any concerns, talk to your doctor.
Complications of varicose veins - These can include the following.
Thrombophlebitis – Your superficial veins can become very painful and red due to inflammation or a blockage in your veins.
Bleeding – The varicose veins are quite fragile and vulnerable and can bleed if you cut or knock your leg. If this happens to you, act quickly. Lie down and raise your leg as high as you can – resting it on a table top or back of a chair can help. Press firmly onto the bleeding vein using a clean tea towel or dressing. If bleeding is heavy or does not stop easily, call your doctor or an ambulance.
Varicose eczema –. This is caused by a leakage of blood from the varicose vein into the surrounding tissue. Symptoms of varicose eczema are a scaly or flaky skin, swelling, tenderness; itching and darkening of the skin. The surrounding skin can become brown or purple which is often permanent, although it can be disguised with make-up.
Venous ulcers – It is possible to get ulcers when fluid leaks from the varicose vein into the surrounding tissue. These need specialist treatment and dressing.
Conventional treatment - If your symptoms are severe or you have complications; your doctor may refer you to a vascular surgeon who specialises in blood vessels. He or she will need to work out the exact position and extent of any valve damage and to do so may perform one, or more, of the following tests.
Doppler test. This test uses an ultrasound technique to produce an image of the inside of your leg. From this it gives the surgeon information about the direction of blood flow in your vein and the extent of any damage to the valves.
An ultrasound scan (duplex). This is a variation of the above test but allows the surgeon to examine your deep set veins in detail.
In varicose vein surgery, your surgeon will examine and remove any superficial veins that have become varicose veins. The veins that are situated deep within the tissue of your legs will adequately take over the role of the damaged veins.
One of the most common operations is ligation and stripping. This requires your surgeon to tie off the faulty vein (ligation) in order to stop blood flowing through it and then remove it (stripping). You may have phlebectomy (removal of the vein) with ligation and stripping to remove the smaller surface veins that lie just under your skin. In this operation, your surgeon will use little hooks to pull out your varicose veins through tiny cuts in your leg.
Sclerotherapy - This is a liquid or foam treatment which involves injecting a chemical into your varicose veins. This will force them to close. Liquid Sclerotherapy is often used to treat smaller varicose veins whereas for larger veins, foam Sclerotherapy would be used. After the procedure is complete, your surgeon will put a compression bandage over the area and you may need to wear compression stockings for up to two weeks. Studies have shown that this treatment is effective in the short-term for treating varicose veins, however, the long-term benefits aren't yet known. The procedure also has serious potential complications such as a stroke or damage to nerves. It's therefore important to tell your surgeon if there is a history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the family and to discuss the safety of ultrasound guided foam Sclerotherapy.
Endovenous laser treatment. This treatment requires your surgeon to pass a fine laser inside your varicose vein. The laser will heat the inside of the vein damaging the vein wall, causing the vein to close.
Radiofrequency ablation. In radiofrequency ablation, the procedure is similar to above but your surgeon will use a high frequency electrical current to heat the wall of your varicose vein. This will damage the vein and cause it to close.
Trans illuminated powered phlebectomy (TIPP). This is a relatively new procedure in which your surgeon will place an advanced fibre optic technology light under your skin and remove the varicose vein by suction combined with a rotating blade. At the moment not much is known about its long-term effectiveness.
Although many people won't need any further treatment after surgery, it’s possible that new varicose veins can form
The use of natural remedies:
Self-help - Try to avoid standing for long periods of time as this may make your symptoms worse. If you rest your legs elevated or up on a stool, it may ease any aching or discomfort.
Non-surgical treatments - Compression stockings (similar to flight socks) can help the blood in your veins flow up towards your heart. The stockings may relieve the swelling and aching in your legs, but it is unlikely they will prevent more varicose veins from developing.
Essential oils - The use of these oils is primarily aimed at improving the tone of the vein and should be done in combination with dietary and medical advice. In addition obesity, poor diet and a life style that includes prolonged standing should be avoided as much is as practical.
The most important oil is Cypress which can be used in a massage oil blend, using 3 to 4% with Argan or sweet almond oil and gently massaged into the vein area. Please note that massage MUST only be used above the varicose area (i.e. the heart side) and never below the varicose area otherwise it will increase the pressure in the vein. It may take some months to produce any improvement and it can be useful to add a small amount of Lavender, Juniper and Rosemary oil to the blend from time to time just to vary the effect.
Rutin - This is a bioflavanoid which will strengthen the small blood vessels, capillaries and also strengthen the veins.
There is a herbal remedy which has had very good results. It is Horse Chestnut which contains a group of active ingredients called Aescin. This reduces the rate of leakage from damaged blood vessels and inhibits the enzymes that cause holes. There is a cream (Derma E Clear Vein Crème) which combines horse chestnut with grape skin extract and pycnogenol and is considered excellent for spider veins and bruising. A clinical trial was carried out on 240 people of whom 25% noticed a marked change in the swelling of the lower legs after taking 50 milligrams of Aescin twice a day over a 12 week period.
Ginkgo Biloba - Strengthens the tissues of your vein walls .and promotes good circulation throughout the whole body bringing everything under control.
Gotu Kola works very well in providing good phytonutrient support for damaged veins. In addition it reduces the risk of DVT by stabilising plaque in the femoral arteries of the leg and in the same way lowers the risk of a stroke.
Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus aculeatus L.) This is a yellow flowered shrub that has anti-inflammatory and astringent properties. An extract of this herb inhibits enzymes in the body that degrade the tissue and building blocks of veins. It also helps strengthen smaller blood vessels, making them less permeable so that fluid does not leak into the surrounding tissue of the legs.
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) While Gotu kola is generally considered by many herbalists to be the best natural remedy for varicose veins, bilberry is also recommended. Bilberries contain high levels of anthocyanin pigments. In 2006 a study by Bell and Gochenaur in the Journal of Applied Physiology, it was found that such anthocyanin pigments have direct vasoactive and vasoprotective properties.
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) Witch hazel is a very cooling astringent that contains tannins and other anti-inflammatory substances. When massaged into the varicose veins, it is said to help reduce swelling and the appearance of the spider veins.
Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata) - Strengthens the blood vessels and improves peripheral circulation
Grape Seed Extract. Many herbalists recommend grape seed extract for the treatment of varicose veins due to the Procyanidolic oligomers (PCOs) which it contains and these may improve the condition of varicose veins.
Vitamins Your lifestyle should include vitamin E and C and low odour garlic and you should rest with your legs higher than your head for 20 minutes per day. Gentle exercise is good (walking, stretching and yoga) but no impact exercise (jogging, skipping or aerobics)
Vitamin K has been used as an agent to help blood clot, for some time. When it is applied to the affected area, it reaches the vein through the pores and clots the blood, thereby stopping the seepage.
Homeopathy - Take 30C potency of Hamamelis if you have varicose veins in the thighs and legs that feel heavy, swollen and bruised. In addition take 30C potency of Pulsatilla for swollen varicose veins with pain that gets worse in hot weather or baths.
Take 30C potency of Lachesis if you have blue-red swelling of the varicose veins which tend to bleed rather easily. Take 30C potency of Sepia if you have purple varicose veins that are congested and have lost their elasticity. This is particularly good for women with this type of varicose veins and also suffers with constipation frequently.
Many different remedies have been tried over the centuries with varied degrees of success. Some of them are as follows:
You can apply many different oils and liquids to your varicose veins to help them improve. Put cider vinegar on your varicose veins every morning and evening until you begin to see progress. You can also use vitamin E oil, witch hazel tea and oil of rosemary. Some have used a suitable Dead Sea mudpack applied to your varicose veins and left it to set overnight. Epsom salt baths twice weekly will help this and other ailments greatly. ◦Prepare a salve by stirring 2 cups of chopped calendula flowers, leaves, and stems into an equal amount of melted lard. Let the mixture stand for 24 hours. Reheat and strain. Coat this over your varicose veins and let it stand overnight. Infuse crushed, fresh violet leaves and flowers or marigold flowers in boiling water. Apply compresses of the liquid. Eat a few fresh marigold petals every day. This treatment is believed to shrink varicosities and nourish the veins. A few hours sunbathing are also a good option for your varicose veins because of the vitamin D your body absorbs. Be sure not to overdo it and use a suitable factor sun cream. Stretching the affected areas daily will improve blood flow. If you smoke please try to cut down or give up completely as it badly affects veins and arteries.
Pain in the legs
- What causes the pain in my legs and how can I prevent it?
Pain in the legs can have various causes, most commonly muscular but can have several other more serious reasons. There are many remedies you can try but you should talk to your doctor first.
© 2012 Peter Geekie
Peter Geekie (author) from Sittingbourne on August 14, 2013:
I hope it helps, there is so much that can be done with varicose veins that it's unforgivable that she should suffer.
kind regards Peter
Trevor on August 13, 2013:
My wife has bad varicose veins and she goes to the doctor but she never understands what he says. I showed her this hub and she is taking a copy with her on her next doctors visit. Thanks from both of us