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1. of the nature of or pertaining to a varix.
2. unnaturally and permanently distended (said of a vein); called also variciform.
varicose veins swollen, distended, and knotted veins, usually in the subcutaneous tissues of a lower limb; they result from stagnated or sluggish flow of the blood, combined with defective valves and weakened vein walls. This occurs most often in those who must stand or sit motionless for long periods. Pregnancy is also sometimes a causative factor. It also appears that a tendency to develop varicose veins may be inherited.

Causes. Blood returning to the heart from the lower limbs must flow upward through the veins against the pull of gravity; it is “milked” upward principally by the massaging action of the muscles against the veins. To prevent the blood from flowing backward, the veins contain flaplike valves, located at frequent intervals and operating in pairs. When the blood is flowing toward the heart, these are open and the blood can move freely. If the blood should attempt to flow backward, the valves close, effectively stopping the reverse movement of the blood.

Prolonged periods of standing or sitting without movement place a heavy strain on the veins. Without the massaging action of the muscles, the blood tends to back up. The weight of blood continually pressing downward against closed venous valves causes the veins to distend, and in time they lose their natural elasticity. When a number of valves no longer function efficiently, the blood collects in the veins, which gradually become swollen and more distended. During pregnancy, more force often is necessary to push the blood through the veins because of the pregnant uterus pressing against the veins coming from the legs and preventing the free flow of blood; this increased back pressure can cause varicose veins.
Symptoms. The development of varicose veins is usually gradual. There may be feelings of fatigue in the lower limbs, with cramps at night; a continual dull ache may develop in the legs, and the ankles may swell. If the condition is untreated and allowed to spread, as it often does, the veins become thick and hard to the touch, and dull or stabbing pains may be felt in time. Because of impaired circulation, ulcers often develop on the lower legs.
Treatment. Treatment of mild cases of varicose veins includes rest periods at intervals during the day; the patient lies flat with feet raised slightly above the level of the heart. Bathing the legs in warm water helps to stimulate the flow of blood, as does exercise. The daily routine should be changed to allow movement and changes in posture; even a brief walk will stimulate circulation grown stagnant during a time of standing or sitting in one position. Stockings lightly reinforced with elastic can be worn to help support the veins in the legs. Heavy elastic stockings, however, should be fitted and worn only under medical supervision; if they do not fit correctly they may aggravate the condition by further restricting blood flow.
Injections. Certain cases of varicose veins that have developed past the stage when exercise and rest are helpful may be treated by sclerotherapy, the injection of a hardening, or sclerosing, solution into them. A few hours after this treatment, which usually can be performed in the primary care provider's office, the injected veins become hard, tender to the touch, and painful. The pain subsides within a few days, however, and in about 2 months the varicose veins atrophy while the blood is channeled into other veins. The number of injections necessary depends upon the extent of the condition. This form of treatment usually is not recommended for advanced cases because it has been found that in such cases recurrence is likely after a varying period of time following the injections.
Surgery. Varicose veins can cause much discomfort. The poor circulation involved means that any break in the skin of the leg is likely to develop into an ulcer that is painful and heals slowly and with difficulty. Therefore, chronic or well-advanced varicose conditions are best treated surgically. The operation consists of ligating (tying off) the affected vein and removing it.
Prevention. Regular leg exercises such as long walks will stimulate the flow of blood through the limbs. Those who have a predisposition to varicose veins should make such activities a part of their regular routine. If possible, they should avoid occupations that require them to stand or sit motionless for long periods, or should make it a point to walk about and exercise their leg muscles often during working hours. Tight stockings or garters should not be worn, nor should clothing that fits tightly or binds. See also chronic leg ulcer.
Comparison of normal veins and varicose veins in the leg.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


(var-is'i-fōrm, vă-ris'ĭ-fōrm),
Resembling a varix.
Synonym(s): cirsoid, varicoid
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


Resembling a varix.
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012
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