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What are varicose veins or spider veins?

Varicose veins are swollen, enlarged, twisted veins that usually occur on the legs and feet. They are often blue or dark purple and lumpy, bulging or twisted in appearance. They occur because standing and walking upright increases the pressure in the veins in the lower body or because faulty valves in the veins allow blood to flow in the wrong direction or to pool.

Possible Causes:

When the valves in your veins get weak or damaged, you could get varicose veins. Veins have to return blood from your body to your heart, and when carrying blood from the legs, they have to work against gravity. The valves in veins ensure that blood doesn’t flow backwards. When these valves don’t function properly, blood flows backward and pools in the vein, causing them to stretch or twist.

Risk Factors:

The following increase your risk of getting varicose veins:

  • Age: the risk of varicose veins increases with age.
  • Gender: women are more likely to develop the condition. Hormones may be a factor here.
  • Pregnancy: during pregnancy, the volume of blood in your body increases to support the growing foetus. This may lead to enlarged veins in your legs. 
  • Family history: if other family members had varicose veins, there's a greater chance you will too.
  • Obesity: being overweight puts added pressure on your veins.
  • Standing or sitting for long periods of time: your blood doesn't flow as well if you're in the same position for long periods.

Signs and Symptoms:

Varicose veins symptoms may sometimes show without any pain, such as:

  • Change in the colour of the veins to dark purple or blue.
  • Change in the appearance of the veins – they appear twisted and bulge a little, like cords on your legs.

Painful symptoms of varicose veins include:

  • Leg pain.
  • Burning, throbbing, muscle cramping and swelling in your lower legs.
  • Increase in pain after sitting or standing for a long time.
  • Itching around one or more of your veins.
  • Skin discoloration around the varicose vein.


The vascular surgeon at Medcare will discuss your symptoms and conduct a physical examination. Your legs will be examined for any kind of swelling when you stand.

The specialist may also suggest an ultrasound test to see if the valves in your veins are functioning normally or if there's any evidence of a blood clot.

Treatment Options:

Schedule a consultation at Medcare for the correct diagnosis and varicose vein treatments. A number of techniques are available to treat varicose veins:

  • Sclerotherapy: a solution or foam is injected into the vein, that scars and closes the vein. This is used for small and medium-sized varicose veins, while for larger veins, foam sclerotherapy is used. No anaesthesia is required and this can be done in your doctor's office. 
  • Laser treatment: laser treatment works by sending strong bursts of light onto the vein, which makes the vein slowly fade and disappear. No incisions or needles are used.
  • Catheter-assisted procedures using radiofrequency or laser energy: the vascular surgeon inserts a tube (catheter) into an enlarged vein and heats the tip of the catheter using either radiofrequency or laser energy. As the catheter is pulled out, the heat destroys the vein by causing it to collapse and seal shut. 
  • High ligation and vein stripping: this procedure involves tying off a vein before it joins a deep vein and removing it through small incisions. This is usually an outpatient procedure.
  • Ambulatory phlebectomy: the vascular surgeon removes smaller varicose veins through a series of tiny skin punctures. This is also an outpatient procedure and causes only minimal scarring.
  • Endoscopic vein surgery: this may need to be done in an advanced case involving leg ulcers if other techniques fail. A thin video camera is inserted in your leg to visualise and close varicose veins and remove them through small incisions. This varicose veins surgery may be performed on an outpatient basis.
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  • Are there any good practices for varicose vein prevention?

    A: Yes, you can manage your health and fitness so as to minimise chances of getting varicose veins. Exercise is an important practice that keeps your leg muscles toned, your blood flowing and prevents you from getting overweight. Avoid smoking as it has been linked to varicose veins. 

    If your work involves sitting or standing for long periods, try to stretch or exercise your legs at frequent intervals. Avoid high-heeled shoes and tight clothing.

  • How can compression stockings help my varicose veins?

    A: Your doctor may advise you to wear compression stockings. These improve circulation and may also give you relief from pain. They could prevent your varicose veins from getting worse.

  • Which exercises are best to prevent varicose veins?

    A: Discuss your exercise routine with your doctor so that you can opt for one that benefits your condition. Generally, walking, cycling, leg lifts, lunges are the best for you.

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