Varicose Vein: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Varicose Vein Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is Varicose Vein?

When the veins, usually on the legs, become inflamed and twisted, the condition is called Varicose Vein. The term ‘Varicose’ is derived from the Latin word ‘varix’ meaning twisted. It is a very painful condition especially for people who are required to stand or sit for long time. The condition occurs when the veins fail to close the valve that controls the blood flow. This results in backward flow of blood which will cause enlargement.


  • Leg pain
  • Spider veins appear in the legs (Telangiectasia)
  • Ankle swelling
  • Skin becoming red, dry and itchy
  • Leg Cramps
  • Abnormal bleeding upon injury
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • White patches on ankles

What causes Varicose Vein?

Women are more prone to Varicose Vein than men. Heredity is also a major factor that causes Varicose Vein. Pregnant women, obese people and women close to menopause are prone to Varicose Vein. Ageing, standing for a long time, injuries to leg, straining the legs too much or crossing legs at knees or ankles all are common issues causing Varicose Veins. Apart from these, the condition can occur due to other medical conditions like post phlebitic obstruction and/or incontinence, venous and arterio-venous malformations.

What are the Treatments available?

Surgical and non-surgical treatments are available for Varicose Veins.

Non-Surgical Treatment

  • Elevating the legs can, to an extent, reduce the symptoms and relax the legs a bit, but the solution is temporary
  • Another option is to wear compression or special elastic stockings. This will not cure the problem but will help to contain the issues within the current situation. The vein enlargement can be controlled by using elastic stockings
  • Avoiding long times of standing and sitting can relieve you a bit
  • Exercise is definitely a good option to relieve the symptoms.

All these will only help to reduce the symptoms and not cure the disease. Actual treatments involve the following procedures:

  • Sclerotherapy – wherein a chemical or medicine is injected into the veins to be treated. The medicine will make the injured vein to shrink or disappear. It involves multiple injections in one sitting and after the procedure the area treated is bandaged to make sure the treated veins remain closed. Minor side effects like small clots of blood on the surface, brown or dark marks, itching or tingling on the area treated etc. may occur.
  • Laser Treatment – Simple laser treatment can cure tine varicose veins.
    Endovenous Laser Treatment is required to treat larger varicose veins. Under local anesthesia or light sedation, the doctor introduces a laser fiber through a thin tube into the damaged vein. The doctor uses an ultrasound scan to make sure the procedure is done properly. The laser closes the damaged vein. The healing time is much less compared to a surgery. The patient may have to use compression stockings for week or so. The procedure has a 94% success percentage. The risk is very less compared to a surgery. The side effects are also superficial only.
  • Radiofrequency Treatment – Radiofrequency or laser heat is placed directly over the faulty veins. The heat causes the vein walls to collapse and the blood flow stops. Over time, healthy veins take over treated area.

Surgical Treatments

Surgical Ligation and Stripping

  • This is the oldest method to treat varicose vein. The long superficial vein is stripped out during the surgery. A stripper is inserted first into the veins through the various incisions made after giving the patient general anesthesia and then the stripper is pulled out along with the affected veins. Healthier veins take over the blood flow to the area treated. This procedure is normally done when veins closer to the skin are affected. The patient takes 2-4 weeks to recover from the surgery where multiple incisions are done.

There are 2 types of surgical treatments for Varicose Veins:

  • Mini-phlebectomy

This procedure can be done with local anesthesia. Here minute incisions are done to cut the affected veins. Stitches are either not required or only micro-stitches are required.

  • Ambulatory surgery

This is the longer and complicated procedure wherein multiple incisions are made especially in the groin and knee or ankle areas to cut off the affected long superficial veins.

Although there are no serious side effects, as in any other surgery, scars are left after the procedure. Risks associated with General Anesthesia apply in surgical procedure.  The nerve fibers around the vein may get damaged during the surgery. The surgery wound may get infection, inflammation and swelling may occur. Since the veins are removed, it will not be available for bypass grafts in future if the patient develops coronary artery disease.

What if Varicose Vein problem is left untreated?

CVI or Chronic Venous Insufficiency is a condition when the veins fail to function properly and causes improper blood circulation and swelling. This results in blood clots and ultimately the vein bursts due to pressure. This results in ulcers and open sores. The infection may spread to surrounding tissues if left untreated.

Phlebitis occurs due to blood clots caused by vein inflammation. The clot is known as thrombus and when the circulation goes wrong due to thrombus, the condition is called thrombophelbitis. Superficial thrombophelbitis do not affect health seriously since only veins close to the skin surface are affected. Deep thrombophelbitis is a serious issue since it affects the inner blood vessels.

Varicose Ulcers are caused by varicose veins left neglected over a long period. Pressure and water logging causes varicose ulcers and can be a serious problem if left untreated.

How do we handle Varicose Vein?

If you doubt you have Varicose Veins, please do not hesitate to consult your doctor. Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT) is one the most popular treatment method. It is the most cost-effective and convenient treatment for Varicose Vein available in the world. The success rate is very high (94%) compared to the usual surgical treatment. The patient can resume normal activity within a week of the procedure. Since only local anesthesia is required, the patient does not have to be hospitalized. This procedure is ideal especially for elderly patients.

Santanu Majumdar is a part-time blogger and currently blogs at He is also a health and fitness lover who loves to share his ideas on health, fitness and beauty. You can check him out on Twitter and Facebook.

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