What are Anterior Labial Veins and How to Treat Them?
Anterior labial veins are the veins that drain blood from the lips of the vulva. They are also called external pudendal veins. These veins can sometimes become enlarged, twisted or varicose, causing pain, discomfort and cosmetic concerns. This condition is known as labial varicose veins or vulvar varicosities.
In this article, we will explain the anatomy, causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options for anterior labial veins.
Anatomy of Anterior Labial Veins
Anterior labial veins originate from the lips of the vulva, which are the folds of skin that surround the opening of the vagina. The vulva consists of two pairs of lips: the larger outer lips (labia majora) and the smaller inner lips (labia minora).
The anterior labial veins come from the labia majora and join the femoral vein or the external pudendal veins. The femoral vein is a large vein that runs along the inner thigh and drains blood from the lower limb. The external pudendal veins are branches of the femoral vein that supply blood to the external genitalia.
The anterior labial veins are accompanied by anterior labial arteries, which are branches of the external pudendal arteries. The arteries carry oxygen-rich blood to the vulva, while the veins carry oxygen-poor blood back to the heart.
Causes of Anterior Labial Veins
Anterior labial veins can become enlarged or varicose due to various factors that increase pressure on the pelvic veins. Some of these factors are:
- Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the growing uterus compresses the pelvic veins and reduces blood flow. The increased blood volume and hormonal changes also weaken the walls of the veins and make them more prone to dilation.
- Obesity: Excess weight puts extra strain on the pelvic veins and increases venous pressure.
- Aging: As we age, our veins lose elasticity and become more susceptible to stretching and sagging.
- Genetics: Some people inherit a tendency to develop varicose veins due to weak or defective valves in their veins. Valves are structures that prevent blood from flowing backwards in the veins.
- Chronic constipation: Straining during bowel movements can increase pressure on the pelvic veins and cause them to bulge.
- Pelvic congestion syndrome: This is a condition where the pelvic veins become dilated and congested due to faulty valves or obstruction. It can cause chronic pelvic pain and varicose veins in the vulva, buttocks and legs.
Symptoms of Anterior Labial Veins
Anterior labial veins may not cause any symptoms in some cases. However, when they become large or varicose, they may cause:
- Visible blue or purple veins on the vulva
- Swelling or heaviness in the vulva
- Pain or discomfort in the vulva, especially during intercourse, menstruation or physical activity
- Itching or burning sensation in the vulva
- Bleeding or infection of the varicose veins
Diagnosis of Anterior Labial Veins
If you have any symptoms of anterior labial veins, you should consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Your doctor will examine your vulva and ask you about your medical history, lifestyle and any medications you are taking. You may also need some tests to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms. Some of these tests are:
- Doppler ultrasound: This is a non-invasive test that uses sound waves to create images of your blood vessels and measure their blood flow. It can help detect any abnormalities in your anterior labial veins and their valves.
- Venography: This is an invasive test that involves injecting a contrast dye into your veins and taking X-rays to visualize them. It can provide more detailed information about your anterior labial veins and their connections with other pelvic veins.
- Pelvic MRI: This is a non-invasive test that uses magnetic fields to create images of