Vulvar Varicosities: What to know about varicose veins on the vulva
A vulvar varicosity is a varicose vein in or around the vulva. This type of vein tends to occur in women during pregnancy, and many women with vulvar varicosities also have varicose veins elsewhere.
What are vulvar varicosities?
Like every other area of the body, the vulva is home to a wide range of small and large blood vessels. During pregnancy, increased blood flow and pressure on the genitals and lower body can cause varicose veins.
Varicose veins are more common in the legs and feet, but some women also develop them in the vulva. The veins may be tiny and only moderately swollen or can be large, twisted, and painful.
Not all women with vulvar varicosities notice them or have symptoms. Even when symptoms do appear, a woman might not be able to see the veins. Anyone who suspects they have vulvar varicosities should speak with a doctor about the symptoms to ensure a proper diagnosis.
In addition to visible twisted or swollen veins, another main symptom of vulvar varicosities is a pain in or around the genitals.
The area may feel tender and sore, like a bruise. Some other symptoms include: a feeling of pressure or fullness in the genitals, swelling in or around the genitals, pain that gets worse after standing, sexual activity, or physical activity.
The veins can also affect the perineum, the area between the vagina and anus. Some women with vulvar varicosities also develop hemorrhoids.
Pregnancy is the most common cause of vulvar varicosities. A 2017 study estimates that 18–22 percent of all pregnant women and 22–34 percent of women who have varicose veins near their pelvis develop vulvar varicosities.
An estimated 4 percent of women have had vulvar varicosities. They typically occur during pregnancy and usually go away on their own within 6 weeks after giving birth.
Vulvar varicosities are unusual in women who have not been pregnant. Although, sometimes, they occur in older women, particularly after standing for a prolonged period. Women who have varicose veins elsewhere on their body may also develop vulvar varicosities.
Treatment usually focuses on managing symptoms at home, since vulvar varicosities typically go away within 1 month of giving birth.
Ways to prevent the veins from getting worse include:
- avoiding sitting or standing for long periods
- changing positions frequently
- avoiding wearing high heels or any shoes that are uncomfortable and put pressure on the lower body
- sleeping with the hips slightly elevated to prevent blood from pooling in the area
- drinking plenty of water
Techniques for reducing pain include:
- applying ice or heat to the area
- wearing supportive pregnancy underwear, such as compression and support stockings
- sleeping on the left side in pregnancy to place less pressure on the vena cava
- taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as Naproxen
Doctors do not recommend removing vulvar varicosities during pregnancy since they usually go away on their own. If the veins do not disappear a few months after giving birth, surgical procedures can be used.
The two most common procedures are:
- Vein embolization. This procedure uses a catheter to close damaged veins with a coil.
- Sclerotherapy. This procedure involves injecting a solution into the vein that blocks blood flow, eliminating the pain and swelling.
Many women with vulvar varicosities have no symptoms other than swollen veins. A doctor will often be able to diagnose them with a simple visual examination.
Risks and complications
Poor circulation can cause blood to pool in the veins, leading to a dangerous blood clot called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Blood clots in the deepest veins can break loose and travel elsewhere in the body. DVT is a life-threatening complication.
DVT is extremely rare with vulvar varicosities. However, a doctor will monitor the veins to ensure a blood clot does not develop. Signs of a blood clot include the vein becoming very painful, red, swollen, and hard. Women should immediately report these symptoms to a doctor.
Some women with vulvar varicosities might worry about how the veins will affect childbirth. However, these veins tend not to bleed very much and have no links to childbirth complications.
Vulvar varicosities can look frightening, and some women may be embarrassed to discuss them with their doctor. However, these veins are widespread, and there is no reason to be alarmed.
Women should still speak to a doctor for a proper diagnosis and reassurance that the veins will likely disappear over time.
By Zawn Villines Last reviewed Mon 30 April 2018 by Valinda Riggins Nwadike Source: Medical News Today, to read the entire article click here.