Varicose veins of the legs are a common problem that particularly affects women. Small purple, blue or red veins can form anywhere on the leg, from the top of the thigh to the ankle, remaining close to the surface of the skin.
Several factors can cause varicose veins, including heredity, pregnancy, weight, occupations or activities that require prolonged sitting or standing, and certain medications. Varicose veins are larger, darker in color and tend to bulge. Varicose veins are usually painful and related to more serious venous disorders.
Age. As you get older, your veins can lose elasticity causing them to stretch. The valves in your veins may become weak, allowing blood that should be moving toward your heart to flow backward. Blood pools in your veins, and your veins enlarge and become varicose. The veins appear blue because they contain deoxygenated blood, which is in the process of being recirculated through the lungs.
Pregnancy. Some pregnant women develop varicose veins. Pregnancy increases the volume of blood in your body, but decreases the flow of blood from your legs to your pelvis. This circulatory change is designed to support the growing fetus, but it can produce an unfortunate side effect — enlarged veins in your legs. Varicose veins may surface for the first time or may worsen during late pregnancy, when your uterus exerts greater pressure on the veins in your legs. Changes in your hormones during pregnancy also may play a role. Varicose veins that develop during pregnancy generally improve without medical treatment within three months after delivery.
A sign is something everybody can detect, such as a rash or bloodshot eyes, while a symptom is something only the patient can feel and describe, such as pain or ringing in the ears.
In the majority of cases, there is no pain. Signs may include:
Some patients may also experience:
A physical examination, mainly visual, by a qualified doctor will decide whether or not a patient has varicose veins. The patient will be asked to stand while the doctor checks for signs of swelling. The patient may also be asked questions about the symptoms, whether any close relatives have/had varicose veins, and whether they are or have been pregnant. The physician may also ask the patient whether he/she has ever had any leg injury, such as a broken bone, and any history of deep vein thrombosis.
In some cases, a general practitioner (GP, primary care physician, family doctor) may refer the patient to a vascular specialist.
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