Almost everyone can remember a grandmother with big blue veins in her legs. The condition that causes the unsightly and sometimes painful problem is called varicose veins. It is still very common, especially among women who stand a lot and those who are pregnant. Thanks to modern varicose vein repair options, there are now fewer women suffering from severe cases into old age.

The Underlying Reasons for Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are swollen, twisted leg veins that are clearly visible under the skin. Although most do not cause serious medical problems, patients can suffer from blood clots, skin ulcers and leg pain. The problem may also occur in other parts of the body, but that is uncommon. Swelling is caused when the valves in veins weaken and allow blood to back up and pool. Conditions such as spider veins or even hemorrhoids are associated with the issue.

Common Causes for Varicose Veins

Swollen leg veins can be hereditary and the chance of getting them increases with age. They may be caused or aggravated by weight gain. The problem is common in pregnant women because growing babies create leg pressure. Fortunately, it usually resolves itself within a few months after babies are born. Women in general are more likely to need vein repair because of the hormonal changes that occur during their various life stages. Birth control can increase their chances of developing the condition.

Diagnosing Varicose Veins Is Simple

Aside from noting their appearance, doctors use a variety of techniques to diagnose vein problems. Varicose veins are usually the culprit when patients complain of throbbing, "heavy" or itching legs. Swollen feet or ankles are also signals. Doctors often get definite proof using ultrasound to identify blood clots and verify blood flow. Some doctors use angiograms which involve injecting dye into the veins. The procedure lets them clearly see blood flow on an x-ray.

There Are Several Treatment Options

Varicose veins often get better with lifestyle changes like weight loss or exercises that improve blood flow. When that is not enough, doctors might use sclerotherapy to chemically close off and remove veins. Laser surgery can fade veins away using directed pulses of light. In endoscopic vein surgery, a vascular surgeon threads a camera-mounted tube into a vein and then closes it off. Most options are one-day procedures that allow patients to resume normal activities quickly. When problems are severe, doctors may strip and tie off veins surgically. Recovery can take up to 4 weeks.

Varicose veins are a common problem caused by weak valves in veins. Although the condition does not usually cause serous medical problems, it makes sufferer uncomfortable. Fortunately, doctors can diagnose it quickly and many patients resume normal activities soon after treatments.