Vulvar varicosities are varicose veins that have become enlarged, swollen, or twisted on the outer side of your vulva. They show up on the labia minora and labia majora. In most cases, they occur after the first pregnancy.
Most women do not know they have varicose veins during pregnancy since they do not feel or see them. This leads to not receiving a diagnosis. Others, meanwhile, decide not to get help from a doctor. Vulvar varicosities typically disappear on their own 6 to 8 weeks after delivery.
However, this condition can be accompanied by blood clot issues, which are associated with venous thromboembolism (VTE). This is a serious problem that causes your blood to clot in veins, leading to complications such as deep vein thrombosis.
Causes of Vulvar Varicosities
During pregnancy, your body goes through changes that increase your chances of getting vulvar varicosities. The risk of varicose veins is higher during pregnancy due to the increase in blood volume and decrease in how quickly the blood flows from your lower body. During this time, the veins in your vulvar struggle to circulate blood, which leads to blood pooling and swelling in your veins. This is caused by:
More blood flowing to your pelvis. An increased amount of blood flows to your pelvis when you’re pregnant. This causes your vulvar veins to swell because they are not able to move the extra blood.
Hormonal changes. Your body experiences hormonal changes during pregnancy. This may affect the lining of your veins, causing them to stretch more, unable to properly transport the blood in them. As a result, your veins can get bigger and twisted.
Increased uterus size. During pregnancy, your uterus enlarges to support a growing fetus. Their weight applies more pressure to your pelvic area, causing the veins in your vulvar to become squeezed. This makes it harder for the veins to carry blood back to the heart.
How to Identify Varicose Veins In Your Vulva
Even though vulvar varicosities can be difficult to identify, especially during pregnancy, some of the symptoms include:
- Swollen and twisted veins on your vulva
- Pain or pressure in your vulva
- Pain or discomfort while standing or walking
- A feeling of fullness or heaviness in your vulva
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Muscle cramps, especially at night.
- Frequent urination
Diagnosis of Vulvar Varicosities
Your doctor may perform a physical exam to diagnose vulvar varicosities. Besides asking about your symptoms, you may be requested to stand so your doctor can examine any other associated swelling. An ultrasound may be considered to help identify and diagnose vulvar varicosities and assess their severity.
If your doctor suspects an existing condition such as pelvic congestion syndrome, they may recommend a CT scan, MRI, venography, or laparoscopy.
How to Treat Vulvar Varicosities
Most women do not receive treatment for this condition. They may lack the courage to initiate a conversation about varicose veins in their vulva.
Meanwhile, treatment depends on whether you are pregnant or not and may vary from simply managing the symptoms to various surgical procedures.
You can get relief from vulvar varicosities by practicing the following:
- Change your position from time to time to avoid staying in one position for long.
- Prop up your hips while lying down.
- Apply cold ice or compresses to the vulva area.
- Get a support garment specifically designed for vulvar varicosities.
In case the varicose veins do not disappear on their own in the months after giving birth, your doctor can recommend the following:
Sclerotherapy. This is a possible way of treating vulvar varicosities, especially during pregnancy. Your doctor injects a sclerosing liquid solution into your veins, causing them to scar, close, and finally disappear.
Phlebectomy. This treatment involves the removal of the affected veins by making small incisions on the skin’s surface.
Transcatheter embolization. This is a less invasive procedure. Medications or synthetic materials are infused through a catheter into the veins to prevent the flow of blood to this area.
Ligation. Your doctor can make small cuts on your skin to access the veins and remove small segments of the varicose veins.
Bathing with a foaming solution without soap, and then a water-based zinc oxide paste can also help treat pruritus.
Can You Prevent Vulvar Varicosities?
Preventing vulvar varicosities, especially during pregnancy is quite hard. However, there are a few things you can do to lower the risk of developing varicose veins. They include:
- Exercising regularly
- Eating healthy diets
- Avoiding staying in one position for too long
- Wearing loose clothes, especially around the groin or waist area
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Avoiding pelvis-straining activities such as weightlifting
- Using a gentle soap to clean the vulva region
When to See the doctor
Your doctor should know about any medical issue you are having, including blood circulation. This includes vulvar varicosities. They can help you manage the symptoms and offer treatment when necessary.
You should visit your healthcare provider as soon as you observe the following:
- Red veins
- Blood clot
- Painful and swollen veins
Vulvar varicosities can be unpleasant. They can cause discomfort during pregnancy, but with the guidance above, you can get relief. More extensive therapy may be needed if you are not pregnant and develop them. There are available procedures and treatment options to provide you relief.
Vulvar varicosity is a common venous disorder. Creating awareness about the condition is vital to help women gain more courage to talk to their health providers about it. In most cases, this issue is discovered in the process of discussing other symptoms of pelvic pain, such as pelvic congestion syndrome.
Varicosities of the lower extremities are a medical problem, though, not an issue to be ignored.