An estimated 25 million Americans, mostly women, suffer from varicose veins. Varicose veins are usually caused by leaky valves in veins of the leg that result in pooling of blood under pressure. As pressure builds up, the branches of the main superficial veins dilate causing bulging varicosities.
Those at high risk include pregnant women whose jobs require prolonged sitting or standing and women who are overweight. Women may find their varicose veins more of a problem when they are menstruating. In most cases, varicose veins are harmless though there is a risk they may result in superficial thrombophlebitis, a blood clot in the vein.
Over time, the veins bulge, protrude from under the skin and are visually very distinct. People who suffer from varicose veins often find they cannot stand on their feet for extended periods of time and their legs feel achy.
Women should seek medical attention to rule out the possibility of a blood clot if there is pain and swelling of the leg or calf. Also, women who develop varicose veins suddenly and are not in a high-risk group, should have them evaluated by a vascular surgeon.
Diagnosing varicose veins is usually done visually. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to identify clots in the abdomen. The diagnosis of a clot is usually made with a duplex ultrasound scan. Ultrasound is also used to plan an operative approach if definitive treatment is desired.
Sometimes a minor trauma (a bump or irritation) may cause the varicose vein to bleed. If applying pressure doesn’t stop the bleeding, seek the advice of a healthcare professional. Also, women with varicose veins should be vigilant about seeking immediate medical attention if symptoms such as shortness of breath, feeling faint or chest pain occurs.
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