Varicose veins

Poor venous function resulting in varicose veins can occur due to the congenital malformation of valves within the veins or conditions like pregnancy, thrombophlebitis or long-term standing. When the valves don’t function properly, or when they are under extreme pressure, the blood flows backwards and cause the vessels to enlarge.


1. Aching heavy legs which feel worse at night or after exercise.

2. Visible veins that are raised, bunched and enlarged.

3. Atrophie Blanch: This is a whitish irregular scar like patch that appears around the ankles.

4. Throbbing and cramp in the legs.

5. Restless leg syndrome

6. Venous eczema: The skin on the leg becomes dry and itchy. This can also be complicated by ulceration.

7. Swollen ankles

8. Skin discoloration

9. Absent or diminished foot pulses

The symptoms from varicose veins may occur daily or occasionally. Many patients do not suffer any discomfort at all, but the physical appearance may be distressing.

Risk factors

There are a number of factors that will increase your likelihood of developing varicose veins. Some of these are: Pregnancy; occupations that require long periods of standing; age as you are more susceptible over 50 years old; overexposure to the sun; females are more likely to develop them; obesity; menopause; and family history of varicose veins and blood vessel disease.


Most cases of varicose veins are treated conservatively. The first line treatment is usually elevation of the legs, coupled with compression hosiery. Many patients are reluctant to wear them because it is difficult to put them on. However, persevere as they can lead to a huge improvement in the condition.

Regular exercise is also recommended. Anti– inflammatory medication may be considered, but the risk of intestinal bleeding has to also be considered. Non-surgical intervention includes laser treatment, radio frequency treatment and scleropathy (where the veins are chemically sealed). In severe cases, veins may be surgically removed.

To improve your varicose veins, try to avoid standing for long periods of time. Sleep with your legs elevated and try periodic elevation during the day. Eat a healthy low-salt diet and engage in regular exercise. One of the more severe complications of this condition is varicose eczema, especially around the ankles. This is often a precursor to ulceration. Make sure you moisturise your skin twice a day to reduce the itch-scratch cycle. Use a bland non-perfumed cream, lotion or oil.


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