Varicose veins are distinguished from reticular veins (blue veins) and telangiectasias (spider veins), which also involve valvular insufficiency, by the size and location of the veins. Many patients who suffer with varicose veins seek out the assistance of physicians who specialize in vein care or peripheral vascular disease. These physicians include vascular surgeons, phlebologists or interventional radiologists.Varicose veins are more common in women than in men, and are linked with heredity. Other related factors are pregnancy, obesity, menopause, aging, prolonged standing, leg injury and abdominal straining. Varicose veins are unlikely to be caused by crossing the legs or ankles. Less commonly, but not exceptionally, varicose veins can be due to other causes, as post phlebitic obstruction or incontinence, venous and arteriovenous malformations.
It is often caused by venous reflux. More recent research has shown the importance of pelvic vein reflux (PVR) in the development of varicose veins. Hobbs showed varicose veins in the legs could be due to ovarian vein reflux and Lumley and his team showed recurrent varicose veins could be due to ovarian vein reflux. Whiteley and his team reported that both ovarian and internal iliac vein reflux causes leg varicose veins and that this condition affects 14% of women with varicose veins or 20% of women who have had vaginal delivery and have leg varicose veins.
In addition, evidence suggests that failing to look for, and treat pelvic vein reflux can be a cause of recurrent varicose veins.Treatment can be either conservative or active. Active treatments can be divided into surgical and non-surgical treatments. Newer methods including endovenous laser treatment, radiofrequency ablation and foam sclerotherapy appear to work as well as surgery for varices of the greater saphenous vein.
Stripping consists of removal of all or part the saphenous vein (great/long or lesser/short) main trunk. The complications include deep vein thrombosis (5.3%), pulmonary embolism (0.06%), and wound complications including infection (2.2%). There is evidence for the great saphenous vein regrowing after stripping. For traditional surgery, reported recurrence rates, which have been tracked for 10 years, range from 5–60%. In addition, since stripping removes the saphenous main trunks, they are no longer available for use as venous bypass grafts in the future (coronary or leg artery vital disease).