What are varicose veins?
One-way valves normally allow blood to travel in the veins from the foot back to the heart without flowing back down in the other direction (‘refluxing’). If the valves stop working properly (become leaky or ‘incompetent’) blood pools in the surface leg veins which then swell up over time and become ‘varicose’.
Common places for these incompetent valves are in the groin, causing varicose veins on the inside of the thigh, and the lower leg or behind the knee, causing varicose veins at the back of the calf.
Healthy Vein Valves & Correct Blood Flow
Damaged Vein Valve & Incorrect Blood Flow
Consequences of varicose veins
- Varicose veins commonly cause localised pain in the area of the veins, and also aching or heaviness in the whole of the leg, especially after prolonged periods of standing. Walking can sometimes reduce the aching, making symptoms more noticeable when sufferers rest at the end of the day
- Varicose veins often interfere with the ability to undertake strenuous exercise and can cause problems through rubbing on clothing
- The severity of varicose vein symptoms varies enormously and bears little relation to size. Some people with huge varicose veins suffer very little discomfort, whereas some with relatively small veins suffer greatly
- Pooling of blood increases the pressure within the veins. This causes a ‘bursting’ sensation in the legs at times, leading to fluid, toxins and fragments of old blood cells to cross the tiny vessels (capillaries) in the tissues and build up within the skin
- Excess fluid can cause the leg to swell, and toxins can cause itching and redness, often felt at the ankle and also along the length of the varicose veins. Red patches known as ‘varicose eczema’ can also occur
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