What problems do varicose veins cause?

The pressure across the capillary bed is dependent on the arterial blood pressure pushing blood into the capillaries but also rises and falls depending on the venous pressure from the other side of the capillary bed.

Venous incompetence therefore increases the pressure within the capillary bed. This causes the feelings of bursting or aching or dragging that varicose vein sufferers experience when they are on their feet. It is also the cause of the restlessness felt in the leg (restless leg syndrome). I have found that patients who suffer from a lot of leg cramps in association with the varicose veins often experienced a reduction in leg cramping after successful treatment.

Increased pressure within the capillaries can force fluid to leak out into the tissues which is why varicose vein sufferers often complain of a swollen ankle. This is not the only cause of leg oedema but I usually find that people complain of less ankle swelling after varicose vein treatment.

This leaked fluid is known as an exudate. It also contains the breakdown products of old red blood cells (which normally cary oxygen) and white blood cells which are part of the bodies immune system.

Over time these red blood cell breakdown products can cause dark staining of the skin particularly around the feet, ankles and shins.

The white cells set off a damaging inflammatory reaction which cause itching and sometimes localised eczema (dry red patches).

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