Varicose veins

Varicose veins - when the veins in the legs become enlarged and twisted - are estimated to affect 20 to 35% of people in France. Compression and surgery can prevent complications associated with varicose disease.

In the event of venous insufficiency, the veins under the skin in the legs - called the saphenous veins - and smaller communicating veins can become dilated. The valves responsible for propelling blood back towards the heart therefore become less efficient, causing the blood to pool and enlarge the veins, which become twisted. Varicose veins are defined by a diameter of more than 3 mm, in contrast with varicosities or telangiectasia (spider veins), which are finer and less obvious.

“Essential” varicose veins: risk factors

Varicose veins related to venous insufficiency are termed “essential”. Varicose veins can also develop - although this happens more rarely - following other conditions, such as a venous thrombosis (formation of a clot in a vein), for example. They are often accompanied by other signs of venous insufficiency, such as a feeling of heavy legs and itching. Age, being a woman, a family predisposition, obesity and pregnancy are all factors promoting the development of varicose veins related to venous insufficiency. Athletes can also suffer from varicose veins.

From varicose veins to venous disease: progression

Varicose veins are variable in severity, depending on their stage: from a mild varicose vein mainly perceptible at the ankle bone, to numerous varicose veins, very visible in several places on the leg, accompanied by skin problems. Thrombosis, haemorrhage and skin lesions can be possible complications of varicose veins.

In the early stages, varicose disease can be treated by wearing compression stockings, but when the varicose veins are more obvious and there are risks of complications, they frequently require surgery. A number of methods exist today to remove the affected vein (“stripping”, phlebectomy), eliminate it from the inside using heat (by laser, radiofrequency) or a sclerosing chemical product (sclerotherapy).

Documentary sources
Collège des Enseignants de Médecine vasculaire et Chirurgie vasculaire Item 136 : Insuffisance veineuse chronique. Varices Guias B, Hamel Desnos C, Gouny P, Bressollette L, Mottier D : Varices essentielles : bilan préthérapeutique, MT vol. 11, n° 2, mars-avril 2005 Anaes : Traitement des varices des membres inférieurs .Phlébologie 2005, 58, N°4, 353-372.