Varicose veins are swollen, enlarged veins that occur when blood returning to the heart pools inside the vein. Any superficial vein in the body can become swollen or twisted, but the most commonly affected veins are those in the legs. This is due to the fact that walking and standing increases the pressure in the veins in the lower body and legs.
Bulging, dark-colored varicose veins are not only unsightly, but they can cause pain and discomfort and may also lead to more serious medical problems such as bleeding, blood clots, and ulcers. The appropriate method of treatment for varicose veins is determined based on the patient’s overall health and the size, severity, and location of the varicose veins.
Varicose veins are typically caused by weakened or damaged vein walls and valves. Veins contain one-way valves that allow blood to move in one direction and prevent it from flowing backward. In some cases, vein walls may stretch and lose their elasticity, which can prevent the one-way valves from functioning properly. If blood is allowed to flow backward, it can collect in the veins and cause the veins to become swollen and enlarged. The exact cause of stretched veins and weakened valves is not fully understood and some people experience this condition for no discernible reason. However, there are certain risk factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of developing varicose veins:
Varicose veins are a common condition occurring in up to three in ten adults. If you have varicose veins that are not causing you problems, medical treatment may not be necessary. If you are experiencing discomfort as a result of your varicose veins, you may benefit from conservative treatments, such as lifestyle changes, self-care measures, compression therapy, or minimally invasive procedures geared towards reducing pain and improving quality of life. However, there are certain signs and symptoms to watch out for that may indicate the need for surgical intervention. These may include the following:
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms and you are not responding to self-care measures or compression therapy, it may be time to ask your doctor about your surgical options. The following are some examples of varicose vein treatments that involve surgery.
Vein ligation and stripping is a surgical procedure used to remove damaged veins and prevent a recurrence of varicose veins. It is typically used for the removal of the saphenous vein, which is located in the leg and is responsible for draining blood out of the leg and sending it back to the heart. During this procedure, the surgeon makes small incisions in the groin and lower leg, ties off the affected vein, then removes the entire vein from the leg. Blood flow is rerouted to the deep veins and the incisions are closed with stitches.
This low-risk procedure can be used to remove surface varicose veins that have become unsightly or uncomfortable. During a phlebectomy, the surgeon makes tiny incisions in the skin with a needle or scalpel to access the affected vein. The vein is removed without the need for stitches and with minimal scarring. In most cases, patients who undergo a phlebectomy recover quickly and can return to their normal activities within 24 hours.