A vulvar varicosity is a varicose vein in or around the vulva. They are most likely to occur during pregnancy and cause swelling, pain, and other symptoms. However, they can also occur outside of pregnancy.
Vulvar varicosities affect around 4% of females. They occur in
In this article, we look at the causes and symptoms of vulvar varicosities and treatment options if they do not resolve with time.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
The vulva contains many 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 they can also affect the genital area, including the vulva and perineum, between the vagina and anus.
The veins may be tiny and only moderately swollen or can be large, twisted, and painful.
Not everyone with vulvar varicosities notices them or has symptoms. Even when symptoms do appear, the veins may not be visible.
Anyone who experiences symptoms should speak with a doctor.
In addition to visible twisted or swollen veins, other symptoms
- pain, tenderness, and soreness in or around the genitals
- a feeling of heaviness, pressure, or fullness in the genitals
- swelling in or around the genitals
- pain that gets worse after standing, sexual activity, or physical activity
- wrinkled (macerated) skin
- presence of spider veins in the pelvic area or elsewhere
- reticular veins, which do not bulge but appear purple or blue under the skin
The varicosities can affect the lips of the vulva and the perineum. Some people with vulvar varicosities also develop hemorrhoids.
Veins have valves that prevent blood from flowing backward. Veins in the lower body have to work hard to carry blood back up to the heart. If something stops that from happening effectively, varicose veins can develop.
Vulvar varicosities are a type of varicose vein.
However, people with severe symptoms may need surgery or other interventions.
During pregnancy, increased blood flow to the genitals and pressure on the lower body can make it harder for blood to flow in the proper direction. The blood may flow backward or pool, creating varicose veins.
The veins may also dilate during pregnancy due to hormonal changes or pressure on a major vein called the inferior vena cava. This, too, can lead to varicose veins.
Vulvar varicosities can also affect older females who spend a lot of time standing and people with varicose veins elsewhere on their bodies.
Varicose veins may be
Treatment usually focuses on managing symptoms at home since vulvar varicosities generally happen with pregnancy and typically go away within
However, if they happen outside pregnancy, if symptoms are severe, or if they persist long after pregnancy, a doctor may recommend medical treatment.
Ways to prevent the veins from worsening 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 a cool or heat pack to the area
- wearing supportive pregnancy underwear, such as support and compression stockings
- sleeping on the left side in pregnancy to place less pressure on the vena cava
For more severe symptoms and to prevent complications, a doctor may recommend using a venoactive drug (VAD) known as MPFF (micronized purified flavonoid fraction). These drugs can help manage problems with the veins and cardiovascular system.
In some cases, they may suggest more invasive treatment.
Vein embolization uses a catheter to close damaged veins with a coil.
In sclerotherapy, a doctor injects a solution into the vein that blocks blood flow and reduces pain and swelling.
People can usually have these procedures as an outpatient and under general anesthesia. This means they will be asleep and will not feel any pain.
Complications are rare, but some people see no improvement, and varicosities may recur.
Many people with vulvar varicosities have no symptoms other than swollen veins. A doctor can often diagnose vulvar varicosities with a simple visual examination.
However, varicosities can sometimes signal an underlying circulatory problem. A doctor may ask a person about their circulation and check for varicose veins elsewhere in the body.
Vulvar varicosities can sometimes lead to complications.
Poor circulation can cause blood to pool in the veins, leading to a blood clot called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
DVT is rare with vulvar varicosities, but a doctor will monitor the veins to ensure a blood clot does not develop.
Signs of DVT in a vein include:
People with these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention. Blood clots in the deepest veins can break loose and travel elsewhere in the body, for example, the lungs or brain.
During pregnancy, a person may worry about how vulvar varicosities will affect delivery.
The authors of some
Pelvic congestion syndrome
Vulvar varicosities can sometimes lead to a chronic pain condition called pelvic congestion syndrome. Damage to multiple veins in the vulva and genitals can cause numerous varicose veins, which may cause swelling and blocked blood flow to the area.
The main symptom is pain that worsens with pressure, for example, when running or lifting and during or after sex. A doctor may diagnose this condition if a person has intermittent or ongoing pain for
Home management with ice and heat may help, but some people may need
Vulvar varicosities are not usually permanent. Symptoms typically appear during pregnancy and disappear a few weeks after giving birth.
However, if varicosities occur in one pregnancy, they may recur with another one. The symptoms may be more severe with each pregnancy.
If vulvar varicosities do not disappear over time, a person should speak with a doctor.
Surgery can remove varicosities, but they may recur. For this reason, it is best to treat them with home treatment if possible.
Here are some questions people often ask about vulvar varicosities.
When should I worry about vulvar varicosity?
Vulvar varicosities often occur during pregnancy and disappear
What causes vulvar varicosities?
They most often happen during pregnancy because the additional pressure on blood vessels makes it harder for the circulatory system to pump blood back up to the heart. This puts strain on the veins. Hormonal factors can also play a role.
How do you get rid of vulvar varicosities?
Vulvar varicosities mostly occur during pregnancy and disappear without treatment a few weeks after delivery. If they do not disappear, a doctor may recommend medical treatment with drugs known as VADs or through minimally invasive procedures. However, the varicosities can return.
Vulvar varicosities refer to a swelling of the veins in the genital area. They often occur during pregnancy. After delivery, they usually go away on their own.
A person should speak with a doctor if vulvar varicosities do not go away after pregnancy, if symptoms are severe, if there are signs of DVT, or if they occur for no clear reason. A doctor may wish to carry out some tests or monitor the veins to prevent complications.