A Varicose vein (which a vein that has become enlarged or swollen) usually presents as blue or dark purple in color, often have lumps, bulge and give the appearance of being twisted.
Varicose veins mainly develop in the lower limbs with the calve being the area most affected. This is because of the extra pressure that is exerted on the lower area of the body due to walking and standing. However, it is possible for any vein in the body to become varicose.
All veins have small one-way valves inside them which constantly open and close ensuring that the deoxygenated blood flows back to the heart. In the case of varicose veins the valves have become damaged and weak and this means that the blood can regurgitate - effectively flowing backwards. The blood becomes stale and collects in the vein which in turn results in the vein swelling.
Varicose veins are a fairly common complaint with women being far more affected than men.
While the appearance of varicose veins can be visually unpleasant it is unusual for them to cause other health issues. The blood circulation is not affected and for the majority of people no treatment is required. As a varicose vein is swollen it does sometimes cause discomfort and pain but it is unusual for other complications to occur. There may be some skin coloration changes and in some rare cases leg ulcers and it is in these cases that some form of treatment may be advisable.
The most common types of varicose are:
Trunk varicose veins - These are the type that mainly appear in the lower limbs and are close to the skins surface presenting as thick with bulges and may appear unpleasant visually and go the length of a person's leg.
Telangiectasia varicose veins - these are small areas of blue or red veins, grouped together and mainly appear on the facial area but can appear elsewhere. They cause no health issues and do not swell. They are sometimes associated with excess consumption of alcohol.
Reticular varicose veins - these are similar to the telangiectasia type and appear red and form closely together.
Symptoms, Staging and Complications of Untreated Varicose Veins
As mentioned earlier a varicose vein can occur due to the one way valves becoming damaged and weak allowing the blood to regurgitate - effectively flowing backwards. The most common area of the leg affected is the calve due to the pressure required to pump the venous blood back to the heart.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
The initial symptoms are slightly raised veins with small areas of the veins showing signs of enlargement. The veins are blue (sometimes a dark purple).
Over a period of time and depending on the severity others symptoms may occur. Some people suffer muscle cramps (usually at night) while during the day the legs can ache and feel heavy. In some instances the legs will throb or have a burning sensation, feet and ankles may swell especially later in the day. The skin over the varicose vein can become dryer than elsewhere and may itch. The skin may also become thinner resulting in bleeding from even the smallest knock.
It is usual for the symptoms to be more prevalent during warm weather. Standing for long periods can also exacerbate the symptoms.
The most common place for varicose veins to develop but other areas can also be affected.