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Varicose veins are swollen, painful and twisted veins, usually in the legs or groin that are overfilled with blood and dilated beyond their regular size. In normal veins, there are valves that help blood propel forward toward the central circulatory system. If the valves are leaky, then there is swelling of the vein and pooling of blood in the vein. The vein enlarges and becomes ropy and visible to the naked eye.

Varicose veins are fairly common in women but can occur in men as well. They usually occur in the legs but can occur in the female vulva or in other body areas. The causes include pregnancy, thrombophlebitis (inflammation of the vein), and defective valves in the body that are usually congenitally defective. If you have to stand for long periods of time or have increased abdominal pressure, you can get varicose veins more likely. It is called primary varicose veins if the cause is due to congenitally damaged valves. It is called secondary varicose veins if pregnancy or obesity lead to varicose veins.

Symptoms of varicose veins include a fullness, heaviness, aching or strong pain in the varicose vein area, swelling of the ankles, visibly enlarged veins, brown discolouration or rash at the ankles and ulceration of the ankles if the condition is severe.

Diagnosis of varicose veins is usually a visual diagnosis. They can be seen and felt during a physical examination of the legs or vulva. A Duplex ultrasound of the legs can show the pattern of blood flow within the veins and can differentiate between a low flow condition and a blood clot. In rare conditions, an angiogram of the vessels can show what is going on inside the veins.

The treatment can be conservative or more aggressive. Conservative management includes not being on your feet much, wearing elastic stockings to protect the veins and raising your legs when in a recumbent position. You may need surgery or nonsurgical treatment of the varicose veins if they are severe enough and don't respond to conservative management. If you have a great deal of leg pain or skin ulcers, you may need surgical or nonsurgical treatment. There is a condition of lipodermatosclerosis in which fatty tissue forms under the skin and hardens due to the elevated pressure within the veins. This needs more aggressive management than milder disease.

Vein stripping is generally the surgical method of taking care of varicose veins. It is used in patients with ulcers or a great deal of pain. The vein stripping involves removal of the large superficial saphenous vein in the leg. It is done under general or spinal anaesthesia. Cuts are made in the skin, one at the bottom of the damaged vein and one at the top of the vein near the groin area. The surgeon will thread a flexible wire into the vein through the groin and will exit the wire at the level of the lower incision. The wire is then pulled through the lower aspect of the vein, taking the rest of the vein out with it. The wire is hooked onto the upper part of the vein to facilitate this process. Smaller veins can be removed in this fashion as well. Other veins can be isolated and tied off at both ends without actual removal of the vein. The incisions are closed with suture material.

Doctors are doing fewer vein stripping procedures because there are newer and nonsurgical methods of treating varicose veins. Non-surgical methods of treating varicose veins can be done in a doctor's office and require only local anaesthesia.

One common method is called sclerotherapy. A chemical solution or saltwater is injected into the vein causing the blood to clot and the varicose vein to collapse, harden and disappear. Another method is called radiofrequency ablation. Still another is endovenous laser ablation. Both methods rely on intense heat in order to treat the varicose vein.

The vein is punctured and ultrasound is used to guide the puncturing of the vein. A catheter is threaded into the vein and the vein is numbed. Treatments are used to heat up the vein and clot the blood. The varicose vein disappears.

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Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our personal injury solicitors operate a specialist medical negligence compensation service. Our Varicose Veins solicitors deal with claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don�t win then you don�t pay them their professional costs. If you would like legal advice at no cost with no further obligation just complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices or use the helpline and a Varicose Veins solicitor will review your medical negligence compensation claim and phone you immediately.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here