VARICOSE VEINS

Varicose veins are veins that are engorged and congested with blood. They often appear like cords or ropes, bulging and raised above the surface of the skin. They are usually blue in color and can vary in size. Veins normally function to return blood from various areas of the body back to the heart. Veins have one-way valves that prevent the blood from flowing backwards as it moves up the legs. If these valves become weakened or incompetent, the blood leaks back and pools. This is called venous insufficiency or venous reflux.

Symptoms of varicose veins may include feelings of fatigue, heaviness, aching, burning, throbbing, and itching in any part of or all of the affected leg or legs. These symptoms are often made worse by standing and severe varicose veins can compromise the nutrition of the skin, causing eczema, inflammation, ulcers, blood clots, and bleeding. This is known as venous stasis disease.

Varicose veins can be caused by heredity (primary reason), age, occupations requiring prolonged standing, obesity, and leg injuries. Hormonal factors including puberty, menopause, pregnancy or any condition causing hormonal increase or increased pressure on the veins can also be contributing factors. Varicose veins affect men as well as women, though not as often. Women are 70% more likely to develop venous disease.

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Complications and Chronic Problems from Varicose Veins
Varicose veins may cause more serious chronic problems if left untreated.  Some of these conditions are as follows:
Venous eczema (skin itching and flaking)
The first sign of this is usually around the ankle and starts with mild itching, redness, and flaking of the skin.  These are often treated by using steroid creams but this can cause the skin to become thin and fragile and break down.  If neglected, the eczema can become very severe, with inflamed, red, scaly skin all around the lower part of the leg and ankle. 

Skin Pigmentation (darkening of the skin)
This means darkening of the skin, starting with a pale brown and later turning to dark  brown. This indicates that the skin is becoming damaged from the poor blood return caused by the faulty veins.

Lipodermatosclerosis (hardening of the skin and fat tissue damage)
This means that the skin and the fatty layer underneath the skin has been damaged. The skin becomes dark, shiny, and hard. It sometimes will have a whitish appearance.

Ulceration (open wounds usually seen on the ankle)
This occurs when the skin breaks down, opens up, and is very slow to heal. These open sores may contain a yellowish drainage and they may be painless or very painful. They may also become infected. Many patients undergo wound care for years without permanent results until the faulty veins are closed. A majority of these ulcers can be healed with proper venous treatment.

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