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Varicose Veins

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Veins are blood vessels that return deoxygenated blood from the outer parts of the body back to the heart and lungs. When veins become abnormally thick, full of twists and turns, or enlarged, they are called varicose veins. Generally, the veins in the legs and thighs have a tendency to become varicosed.

  • The thickened, twisting or dilated parts of the vein are called varicosities.
  • Varicose veins can form anywhere in the body, but they are most often located in the legs.
  • In the United States alone, about 19% of men and 36% of women have varicose veins.
  • Varicose veins tend to be inherited and become more prominent as the person ages.

Veins in the leg are either superficial or deep.

  • The superficial veins and their branches are close to the skin. These veins typically become varicosed. Also included in this category are the communicator or perforator veins, which connect the superficial veins with the deep veins.
  • The deep veins are encased by muscle and connective tissue, which help to pump the blood in the veins and back to the heart. The veins have one-way valves to prevent them from developing varicosities.
  • Generally, blood travels from the superficial veins to the deep veins. From there, the blood travels through a network of larger veins back to the heart.

What are the symptoms?

People with varicose veins often do not have symptoms but may be concerned about the appearance of the veins. Varicose veins are visible through the skin and appear dark blue, swollen, and twisted. If you have varicose veins, your legs may feel heavy, tired, achy, and painful. Symptoms may worsen after standing or sitting for long periods of time. Varicose veins can also cause skin color changes (stasis pigmentation), dry, thinned skin, skin inflammation, open sores (ulcerations), or bleeding after a minor injury.

Superficial thrombophlebitis (when a blood clot and inflammation develop in a small vein near the surface of the skin) can develop in varicose veins.

Varicose veins are common and are usually not a sign of a serious medical problem. However, in some cases, varicose veins can signal a blockage in the deeper veins. This condition, called deep vein thrombosis, requires evaluation and possibly treatment.
How are varicose veins diagnosed?

To diagnose varicose veins, Dr. Alaiti will examine your legs and feet. Varicose veins are easy to see, especially when you are standing. Dr. Alaiti will also check your legs for tender areas, swelling, skin color changes, ulcers, and other signs of skin breakdown.

Additional testing may also be needed if you are considering varicose vein surgery or other vein treatments.

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