What are varicose veins?
In industrialized countries, more than 30% of women and about 10% of men consult for venous signs and symptoms of the legs. Important factors such as heredity, excess weight, and some professions requiring prolonged periods of standing or sitting may increase the risk of developing a chronic venous disease of the leg. These conditions can evolve and produce complications such as skin pigmentation, chronic edema, dermititis, eczema, phlebitis and ultimately leg ulcerations. The most common symptoms are feelings of heaviness and tiredness in the legs, especially after long days of work, and often associated with leg swelling.
Varicose veins reflect more serious conditions of the disease. In general, the larger the varicose vein, the more serious the problem. Long existing varicose veins and thrombosis invariably lead to skin lesions, which, at the worst, will end up in an ulcer. Therefore, an early diagnosis is essential in order to prevent a bad outcome of venous disease. Varicose veins are one of the most common condition of venous disease in the legs. According to the American Society for Vascular Surgery, at least 20 to 25 million Americans have varicose veins. Statistics further show that 17% of men and 33% of women have varicose veins. In fact, more peopleare unable to work due to vein disorders than due to arterial disease. (Vascular Disease Foundation Newsletter, Spring 2005).
Visible tortuous varicose veins are located in the subcutaneous fatty tissue. They are often tributaries to the saphenous veins or accessory saphenous branches. The saphenous veins are located in a duplication of the fascia covering the leg muscles. As they are covered by the fatty tissue, they are not visible in most of the cases. In varicose veins, the anti-reflux valves are defective causing venous stasis and leg swelling. When symptoms are present, the patient may experience ankle and leg swelling, heaviness or fullness, aching, restlessness, fatigue, pain, cramps and itching. Sometimes, varicose veins are painless. As a consequence of varicose veins, chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) with leg edema, skin changes or venous ulcers may develop.
There are two types of varicose vein classifications – primary and secondary. The risk of developing primary varicose veins is frequently associated with heredity, female gender, pregnancy and higher age. Secondary varicosities are a direct result of deep vein occlusion. In this case, superficial veins may be part of the collateral venous circulation leading to dilatation, elongation and valve insufficiency of these veins. Varicose veins are part of the chronic venous insufficiency disease. If not treated, varicose veins can lead to the aggravation of the disease and to the signs of CVI.
Wearing compression socks or stockings is vital for the management and treatment of varicose veins and other venous disorders.
Benefits of Compression Therapy
The recommendations of the International Consensus Conference on compression therapy, published in 2004 (1), clearly defined the use of medical compression stockings. These recommendations review the literature on the subject and validate their efficiency for many indications: Chronic venous affections, varicose veins, edema, deep venous thrombosis, and trophic troubles with venous ulcers are some of them.
The recommendations also describe in concrete terms the main physical, physiological and clinical effects of medical compression. Moreover, different international studies confirm the effect which is observed in the treatment of the early stage of the chronic venous diseases and confirm the benefits of medical compression in the deep vein thrombosis and the preventionb of post-thrombotic syndrome as well.
Today, there is a paradox between the obvious benefits of medical compression, its long term efficiency and the skepticism of some patients. This treatment gives a quick relief. To be convinced, wear a pair of stockings adapted to your symptoms for a few minutes and you will feel the relief immediately!