When veins that are close to the surface of the skin become enlarged, then they can often be seen through the skin. These are known as varicose veins. It is quite common for them to be blue or purple in appearance.
Every vein in the leg has a valve which helps to ensure that the blood flows in the right direction around your body. If these valves stop working, then the blood can pool in the veins as it is not able to go where it needs to. Varicose veins are formed when these pools of blood stretch the tissue in the veins.
You are more likely to develop varicose veins in the lower part of your leg because it is harder for valves to pump blood back up the leg because of gravity. For most people, varicose veins do not cause too many problems, but they may feel self-conscious about wearing clothes which display their legs.
Some people may find that their varicose veins do cause some discomfort. This tends to be at the site where they are visible through the skin. You may experience pressure, burning or a throbbing pain. You should be able to alleviate these symptoms by elevating your legs or wearing a support stocking.
When Are Varicose Veins A Serious Problem?
Although the side effects discussed above will not cause any serious problems for most people, there are more serious issues that can develop.
A condition called Phlebitis, which is defined as an inflammation of the veins, is more likely to affect people with varicose veins and it can be quite dangerous. Phlebitis can cause the pools of blood in the veins to clot and form a thrombus. This clot is called a superficial thrombophlebitis and it causes a hard, painful lump to form in the vein which can be felt on the leg.
While this is a painful condition on its own, it is also a risk factor for Deep Vein Thrombosis. This is where the clot will move from the superficial veins and can be carried round the body in the deep vein system. This can become a life threatening condition if the clot were to become lodged in the lungs. This is known as a pulmonary embolism and needs immediate treatment.
If varicose veins go untreated for a long time, then problems with the skin can occur. It is not unusual for venerous ulcers to develop and this type of ulcer tends not to heal. Not only are these very painful, they can also affect mobility and this can reduce quality of life. If venerous ulcers are caught early, then treatment is usually successful.
You are at a higher risk for varicose veins once you reach the age of 40. Other risk factors include being overweight, having a job that requires a lot of standing and having a family history of the condition. Phlebitis is more likely to occur if you have varicose veins and spend a lot of time sitting or lying down.
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