I think I have varicose veins!

Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged, palpable veins near the surface of the skin. They most commonly develop in the legs and ankles. In pregnancy, they can also occur in the vulval area (vulval varicosities).

They are common in pregnancy because of hormone changes affecting the circulation, gravity (hence they are common in the legs) and pressure effect of the uterus and later the baby’s head in the pelvis on blood circulation.

Varicose veins often run in families and so there is often an inherited weakness in the venous circulation.

Besides the adverse cosmetic effect, they can cause aching pain and discomfort. Occasionally there is superficial thrombophlebitis in varicose veins. This implies infected clot formation. It is unusual to be associated with the more serious condition deep vein thrombosis.

Spider veins are common, mild varicose veins they look like short, fine lines, “starburst” clusters, or a web-like maze and are usually not palpable. Spider veins are not medically concerning but do give cosmetic concern. The medical term for spider veins is telangiectasias.

 

What can be done?

  • Varicose veins in the legs if uncomfortable are best treated by elevating your legs as often as possible and wearing support stockings which are available from a chemist.
  • Vulval varicosities can be relieved by resting. One patient recommends support shorts available through www.recoveryshorts.com.au
  • Varicose veins will usually settle after pregnancy but return with another.
  • If varicose veins in your legs persist after your family is complete then your doctor can arrange for you to see an appropriate surgeon.
  • Superficial thrombophlebitis is managed with antibiotics, aspirin, local anti-inflammatory agents such as Hirudoid and pressure stockings.

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*Saturday morning appointments are not available for initial antenatal visit.