Most people are familiar with varicose veins. These are thick discolored veins that typically appear just underneath the skin and are caused by the failure of valves in the veins to prevent blood from flowing backwards and pooling. While this problem is most often seen in the legs, women can also develop varicose veins on their vulvas. Here's more information about this issue and what you can do to minimize the discomfort it causes.

What are Vulvar Varicosities?

Vulvar varicosities is the official medical term for varicose veins that develop in the vulva including the labia majora and labia minora. The condition primary affects pregnant women, but only about 10 percent of pregnant women develop them.

While varicose veins are caused by the failure of blood valves, vulvar varicosities develop because of the increase in estrogen and progesterone that occurs during pregnancy. These hormones cause the veins in the vagina to become more relaxed and prone to letting blood pool.

However, increased pressure on the uterus also contributes to the onset of vulvar varicosities, which is why they often show up during the third trimester of pregnancy when the baby's weight and position puts the most pressure on the pelvic area. Women who are overweight, exert a lot of pressure on their pelvises (from pushing or straining) or are using hormonal birth control can also develop this condition.

Like varicose veins, this condition is hereditary, and you're more likely to develop vulvar varicosities if your mother had them. Your risk of getting them also increases with each pregnancy and age.

Symptoms of Vulvar Varicosities

The primary symptom of vulvar varicosities is an overwhelming feeling of pressure between the legs. The vagina may feel full and heavy. One pregnant woman described it as feeling though her whole vaginal area would fall to her knees.

Other symptoms include:

  • Swelling of the vulva
  • Vaginal pain, aching, and discomfort
  • Worm-like bulges under the skin of the labia majora and minor; these bulges may also occur on the thighs next to the groin
  • Skin discoloration
  • Skin irritation
  • Pelvic pain

Minimizing Discomfort from Vulvar Varicosities

The most common complaint women with vulvar varicosities have is the pain. In non-pregnant women, the discomfort may onset or worsen at the start of their menstrual cycles. Standing or walking for long periods of time may also increase the discomfort level in all women who suffer from this condition. There are a few things you can do to alleviate the pain.

Applying counter pressure to the vulva can help minimize the discomfort. This can be accomplished a couple of ways. The best way is to purchase a vaginal sling specially designed to provide support to the vulva and pelvis. You can find these products by doing a search online or asking your physician for a recommendation. A do-it-yourself method involves wearing two to three thick maxi pads in a pair of snugly fitting underwear.

Doing pelvic floor exercises can promote circulation in the vaginal area, which may reduce the pressure from pooled blood. The most popular kind are Kegels. This exercise consists of repeatedly tightening and releasing the muscles around your vagina and anus. In addition to stimulating blood flow, Kegels can help improve bladder and bowel movement control. Exercising the pelvic area in general can also make childbirth easier. Be certain to talk to your doctor first to ensure pelvic floor exercises are safe for you to do.

Applying cold compresses to the vulva may also reduce pain in the vaginal area. Simply place the pack between the thighs for 15 to 20 minutes a few times per day. This is a good option for pregnant women who can't take pain medication because of the baby.

If you develop this condition while you're pregnant, vulvar varicosities typically go away within a month after you give birth. If the enlarged veins don't go away or the condition developed because of other issues, the veins can be removed using sclerotherapy.

To learn more about vulvar varicosities or other options for treating the condition, connect with a healthcare professional that has experience handling varicose veins at a clinic like Vein Clinic Of Las Vegas