What are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are veins that have become enlarged, dilated and overfilled with blood. These veins are typically dark purple or blue in color and can appear twisted and bulging, often like cords on your legs. They occur most frequently on the legs, but can be found elsewhere too.

These veins typically result from blood pooling in your veins when they are under too much pressure. Veins are in charge of recirculating blood back to your heart, working against gravity. In venous insufficiency the vein valves do not function correctly so blood pools in the lower leg veins. Patients often complain that swelling in their legs gets worse at the end of the day, but improves after a night’s sleep.

Varicose veins are not painful in many cases. However, when they are painful, there are a few different symptoms that might occur. These symptoms include achy or heavy feeling in your legs, throbbing, muscle cramping, and itching around your veins. The legs can feel restless in bed. In some cases, the skin of the lower legs can darken (pigmentation).

There are a few different factors that increase your risk for varicose veins. Age is a significant risk factor, as people over 50 develop varicose veins more commonly than any other age demographic. Women are more likely to develop varicose veins than men, especially during pregnancy. Being overweight is another common risk factor for varicose veins, as is siting or standing for long periods of time. People who work standing jobs are at increased risk.

There are a few different treatment options for varicose veins. In some cases, lifestyle changes can help such as avoiding standing for long periods of time, exercising to increase blood flow, losing weight, and wearing compression stockings. Sclerotherapy is one treatment option that involves injecting a solution into the varicose vein, while ablation uses thermal or mechanochemical energy to eliminate the unhealthy veins.

What causes leg swelling on just one side?

There can be several causes for this and a vascular specialist will need to evaluate you. A common cause can be venous insufficiency (vein reflux) or a deep vein problem (reflux, obstruction or narrowing), which in many cases can be treated.

I had a DVT in my leg before and now my leg swells and hurts. Can anything be done?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a clot that forms in the deep veins draining the legs. It can be serious because it can lead to pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in the lungs. It is also important, because it can cause permanent narrowing in the veins and damage their valves. The blood dose not drain out of the leg properly and the sufferer experiences pain, swelling, discoloration, often for good. This is called post-thrombotic syndrome and is very common after a DVT. Many patients, however, can see improvement if they undergo treatments to “open” their deep veins. Minimally invasive catheter procedures exist or this. A vascular (vein) specialist can counsel you about the options.