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What Are Varicose Veins?

What Are Varicose Veins?

In industrialized countries, more than 30% of women and about 10% of men consult for venous signs and symptoms of the legs.

varicose veins

Important factors such as heredity, excess weight, and some professions requiring prolonged periods of standing or sitting may increase the risk of developing a chronic venous disease of the leg. These conditions can evolve and produce complications such as skin pigmentation, chronic edema, dermititis, eczema, phlebitis and ultimately leg ulcerations. The most common symptoms are feelings of heaviness and tiredness in the legs, especially after long days of work, and leg swelling.

Varicose veins reflect more serious conditions of chronic venous disease of the leg. In general, the larger the varicose vein, the more serious the problem. Long existing varicose veins and thrombosis invariably lead to skin lesions, which, at worst, will end up in an ulcer. Therefore, an early diagnosis is essential in order to prevent a bad outcome of venous disease. Varicose veins are one of the most common condition of venous disease in the legs. According to the American Society for Vascular Surgery, at least 20 to 25 million Americans have varicose veins. Statistics further show that 17% of men and 33% of women have varicose veins. In fact, more people are unable to work due to vein disorders than due to arterial disease. (Vascular Disease Foundation Newsletter, Spring 2005).

Visible tortuous varicose veins are located in the subcutaneous fatty tissue. They are often tributaries to the saphenous veins or accessory saphenous branches. The saphenous veins are located in a duplication of the fascia covering the leg muscles. As they are covered by the fatty tissue, they are not visible in most of the cases. In varicose veins, the anti-reflux valves are defective causing venous stasis and leg swelling. When symptoms are present, the patient may experience ankle and leg swelling, heaviness or fullness, aching, restlessness, fatigue, pain, cramps and itching. Sometimes, varicose veins are painless. As a consequence of varicose veins, chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) with leg edema, skin changes or venous ulcers may develop.

There are 2 types of varicose vein classifications – primary and secondary.

  • The risk of developing primary varicose veins is frequently associated with heredity, female gender, pregnancy and higher age. 
  • Secondary varicosities are a direct result of deep vein occlusion. In this case, superficial veins may be part of the collateral venous circulation leading to dilatation, elongation and valve insufficiency of these veins. Varicose veins are part of the chronic venous insufficiency disease. If not treated, varicose veins can lead to the aggravation of the disease and to the signs of CVI.

Wearing SIGVARIS compression socks or stockings is vital for the management and treatment of varicose veins and other venous disorders.