Vein: A blood vessel that carries blood that is low in oxygen content from the body back to the heart. The deoxygenated form of hemoglobin (deoxy-hemoglobin) in venous blood makes it appear dark. Veins are part of the afferent wing of the circulatory system, which returns blood to the heart. In contrast, an artery is a vessel that carries blood that is high in oxygen away from the heart to the body.
Varicose veins are enlarged, swollen, and twisting veins, often appearing blue or dark purple.
They happen when faulty valves in the veins allow blood to flow in the wrong direction or to pool.
More than 23 percentTrusted Source of all adults are thought to be affected by varicose veins. Approximately 1 in 4 adults in the United States is affected by varicose veins.
Fast facts on varicose veins
- Pregnant women are more susceptible to varicose veins.
- Symptoms can include aching legs, swollen ankles, and spider veins.
- People who are overweight have an increased risk of varicose veins.
Varicose veins are large, swollen veins that often appear on the legs and feet. They happen when the valves in the veins do not work properly, so the blood does not flow effectively.
The veins rarely need treatment for health reasons, but if swelling, aching, and painful legs result, and if there is considerable discomfort, treatment is available.
There are various options, including some home remedies.
In severe cases, a varicose vein may rupture, or develop into varicose ulcers on the skin. These will require treatment.
If the patient has no symptoms or discomfort and is not bothered by the sight of the varicose veins, treatment might not be necessary. However, if there are symptoms, treatment may be required to reduce pain or discomfort, address complications, such as leg ulcers, skin discoloration, or swelling.
Some patients may also want treatment for cosmetic reasons – they want to get rid of the “ugly” varicose veins.
If varicose veins are large, they may need to be removed surgically. This is usually done under general anesthetic. In most cases, the patient can go home the same day – if surgery is required on both legs, they may need to spend one night in hospital.
Laser treatments are often used to close off smaller veins, and also spider veins. Strong bursts of light are applied to the vein, which gradually fades and disappears.
Ligation and stripping
Two incisions are made, one near the patient’s groin at the top of the target vein, and the other is made further down the leg, either at the ankle or knee. The top of the vein is tied up and sealed. A thin, flexible wire is threaded through the bottom of the vein and then pulled out, taking the vein with it.
This procedure does not usually require a hospital stay. Ligation and stripping can sometimes result in bruising, bleeding, and pain. In extremely rare occasions, there may be deep vein thrombosis.
After surgery, most patients will need 1-3 weeks to recover before going back to work and other normal duties. During recovery time, compression stockings are worn.