Varicose veins are swollen and enlarged veins that usually occur on the legs and feet.
According to the NHS, varicose veins are rarely a serious condition and don’t usually require treatment.
However, in some cases varicose veins can cause complications such as bleeding which is difficult to stop, blood clots and chronic venous insufficiency.
Chronic venous insufficiency is caused by problems with the flow of blood in the veins, which interferes with the way skin exchanges oxygen, nutrients and waste products with the blood. This can cause venous leg ulcers.
In order to prevent complications, it’s advised to see a doctor if varicose veins cause pain or discomfort, lead to sore and irritated skin, or aching which causes irritation at night.
To help people identify varicose veins, venous specialist Professor Mark Whiteley, of Whiteley Clinics, outlines what to look out for using the word V.E.I.N.S.
V – Visible
Veins which are visible on the surface of the skin, or just under.
E – Enlarged
Enlarged veins that are blue or dark purple in colour.
I – Itchy
Itchy, sore or dry skin over the veins.
N – Nodular
Nodular, bulging or twisted veins.
S – Swollen
Swollen, achy or heavy legs and ankles.
Not all sufferers of varicose veins will experience every symptom, but those are the key factors to be aware of, according to Professor Whiteley.
Varicose veins develop when valves inside the veins stop working properly, causing blood to flow backwards and collect in the vein, instead of flowing upwards to the heart.
“It is essential for everyone to be knowledgeable about their veins – and the measures that they can take in order to ensure that their veins remain in good, healthy working form,” said Professor Whiteley.
“Unfortunately, varicose veins have long been misunderstood thanks to a plethora of old wives’ tales and misconceptions surrounding the condition – such as that they are purely cosmetic, and only the elderly and the obese will develop them.”
If varicose veins require treatment, there are both surgical and non-surgical procedures.
Non-surgical procedures block the affected veins, without damaging the circulation in the legs as other veins take over.
These can include endothermic ablation, which closes off varicose veins using heat, and foam sclerotherapy, which injects a chemical foam into the varicose veins to close them up.
Surgical procedures involve the removal of the varicose veins. Deep leg veins will take over the role of the damaged veins, so the blood flow in the leg won’t be harmed.
If treatment is not required, Bupa recommends the following self-help measures to stop varicose veins from getting worse: losing excess weight, doing light to moderate exercise, trying not to stand for long periods of time, sitting with legs raised and resting on a stool, and wearing compression stockings.