What are varicose veins? Varicose veins are permanently dilated, sometimes nodular, superficial veins that occur on the legs. Less commonly, they are also observed in the pelvic region, on the testes, near the vagina, or in the area of the esophagus and the stomach.
Advanced varicose veins are not only a cosmetic issue but also a medical problem. This is because they can lead to a distension in the legs as well as swelling and local pain. If left untreated, permanent skin changes, ulcers, and even vein thrombosis can occur.
The slightest variant of venous insufficiency is called spider veins. These minimally dilated skin veins shimmer through the skin, emitting a bluish to violet appearance, but rarely cause pain. Studies assume that up to 87 percent of the population are affected or will be affected at some point during their lifetime.
In about 30 percent of those affected, treatment is necessary, while the rest only suffers from minor skin changes. The risk of varicosities tends to increase with age, usually, the varices only occur after the age of 35.
Varicose veins in the legs
How do varicose veins develop? The veins transport the blood back to the heart against gravity. On the way, venous valves in the vessels make sure that the blood cannot flow back.
But if these valves are damaged or if the elasticity of the vessels diminishes, this leads to venous congestion. The venous blood cannot continue and, consequently, the vessel walls become overstretched and varicose veins develop.
Seeking medical assistance
Physicians distinguish between primary and secondary varicosities. The latter always comes from another underlying disease, usually vein thrombosis. By contrast, there are no identifiable causes of primary disease. The reduced closure of the venous valve is attributed to the patient’s predisposition.
In particular, people with congenital connective tissue disease and other types of venous insufficiency have an increased risk of developing varicose veins. If obesity, physical inactivity, and a standing profession are present, the onset of varices is likely. Women are more likely to be affected by primary varicosities because of estrogen levels, which affect the structure of the veins. This is especially the case during pregnancy, as venous insufficiency or spider veins develop.
What treatments for varicose veins exist?
Sometimes, the preventive measures mentioned by a doctor are not enough, which means that any developed varicose veins have to be treated. With the help of an ultrasound examination or a vascular x-ray (angiography), the phlebology or vascular surgery specialist will determine the procedure to be used.