Smooth flawless legs may be something that we all aspire to but few of us will actually achieve it. Problems such as cellulite, dry skin, and skin tags can detract from their natural beauty. There are also conditions such as varicose veins which can become bothersome, especially as we get older.
Varicose veins are normal veins that have become widened, bulging, or twisted. They are common and rarely cause medical problems.
The cause of varicose veins
The most common cause of varicose veins is weak vein walls and valves. Veins are able to transport blood back to your heart because they have a series of tiny one-way valves. They open to let the blood through but close to stop it flowing backward and away from the heart.
Sometimes the vein walls become stretched. They are less elastic and this causes the valves to become weak. The blood now leaks backward and collects in your veins, which become swollen and enlarged.
Exactly why this happens is not completely understood but there are some people who are more likely to get varicose veins than others. They are more common in women than in men and they tend to run in families. This is thought to be related to the female hormones and genetics. If you have a member of your family that has them then you stand a greater chance of getting them too. They are more common in older people (because veins lose elasticity with age) and those that are overweight. If your job involves a lot of standing up (e.g. hairdressing) you are more likely to get varicose veins.
Treatment for varicose veins
Not all varicose veins will need treatment. If they are not causing you any discomfort you can just leave them alone. If you do require treatment, it has the aim of easing pain or discomfort and treating complications such as leg ulcers and for cosmetic reasons.
If you see a doctor about your varicose veins they may decide that you need surgery. Vascular surgery is a surgical subspecialty and you may be offered a surgical procedure called ligation and stripping to remove the affected veins.
There are other treatments which are less invasive such as endothermal ablation treatments and sclerotherapy.
You can treat mild cases yourself with compression stockings. They are designed to gradually squeeze your legs to improve circulation. Their design encourages blood to flow upwards towards your heart.
Compression stockings may help relieve the pain, discomfort and swelling in your legs caused by your varicose veins. In some cases, they may also prevent varicose veins getting worse and prevent new varicose veins from appearing.
It will also help if you exercise regularly and avoid standing up for long periods of time. Many people find that lifting their feet up onto cushions when they are resting also helps.
Varicose vein surgery is usually carried out under general anesthetic, which means you will be unconscious during the procedure and will be in hospital for a day or so.