Varicose veins are visible, enlarged veins that typically appear beneath the skin on the thighs, ankles, and feet due to vascular problems. They can be caused by a variety of factors that affect blood circulation in your body. Our veins are tiny one-way valves that open to allow blood flow and close to prevent backflow. When these walls and valves are stretched or damaged, they lose elasticity and become weak.
Varicose veins can be a result of prolonged periods of standing, which puts an unusually high amount of pressure on one’s veins. This damages the vein walls and valves, causing blood to pool in the vein. Varicose veins can also be caused by a medical condition known as venous insufficiency, which occurs when the veins in your body are weak and unable to pump blood back to your heart. Similarly, it causes blood to pool in the blood vessels, enlarging or dilating the veins over time.
This vein condition is not pleasing to look at and may be treated for cosmetic reasons, but the need for treatment extends beyond that. Varicose veins can lead to a variety of health problems and discomfort, including pain, swelling, ulcers, soreness, and chronic inflammation. While they rarely cause long-term health issues, some severe cases may rupture your veins or increase your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis or a pulmonary embolism, both of which can be fatal.
There are different types of veins in the body and not all of them appear the same way when they become varicose. Understanding the different types can be helpful.
Saphenous Varicose Veins
Saphenous varicose veins are swollen and enlarged saphenous veins in the legs, which is the longest vein in the human body. The great saphenous vein connects the groin to the ankle, while the short saphenous vein connects the ankle to the area behind the knee. When problems arise, this is the most common vein that becomes insufficient (where the valves and vein are incompetent), and it will swell significantly larger than its intended size, appearing large and rope-like. They can be colourless but still noticeable.
Reticular Varicose Veins
Reticular varicose veins spread like a mesh beneath the skin. They are typically thicker in red, green, or purple colours, but do not bulge out like saphenous varicose veins. This type of varicose vein develops when the valves become ineffective, allowing blood to leak into the reticular veins in an abnormal manner. They can cause discomfort, itching, and throbbing.
Reticular varicose veins are smaller than saphenous varicose veins but larger than spider veins, and those who have them may also have spider veins. They do not go away on their own and must be treated by a doctor. Without treatment, these veins can progress to chronic venous disease, causing pain, skin rashes, and open sores.
It is important for anyone to understand the different types of varicose veins to ascertain their risk factors and take precautionary measures. Also, knowing their difference, symptoms, and how they may worsen enables you to make informed decisions about your treatment plans.
The team at Cheng SC Veins and Endovascular Clinic in Singapore provides a range of vascular treatments to help with vascular diseases such as varicose veins. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.