Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins. Varicose veins can happen anywhere in the body, but are more common in the legs.
Varicose veins are not considered a serious medical condition. But, they can be uncomfortable and can lead to more serious problems. And, because they may be very noticeable, they may cause people to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.
Varicose veins are caused by increased blood pressure in the veins. Varicose veins happen in the veins near the surface of the skin (superficial).
The blood moves towards the heart by one-way valves in the veins. When the valves become weakened or damaged, blood can collect in the veins. This causes the veins to become enlarged. Sitting or standing for long periods can cause blood to pool in the leg
veins, increasing the pressure within the veins. The veins can stretch from the increased pressure. This may weaken the walls of the veins and damage the valves.
Overweight or obesity
Taking oral contraceptive pills or hormone replacement
The following are the most common symptoms of varicose veins. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Color changes in the skin
Sores on the legs
Sensations in the legs, such as a heavy feeling, burning, and/or aching
Severe varicose veins may eventually produce long-term mild swelling that can result in more serious skin and tissue problems. These include ulcers and nonhealing sores.
The symptoms of varicose veins may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Specific treatment for varicose veins will be determined by your healthcare provider based on:
Your age, overall health, and medical history
Extent of the condition
Your signs and symptoms
Your tolerance of specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the condition
Your opinion or preference
Medical treatment may not be necessary if there are no symptoms. However, varicose veins may sometimes worsen without treatment.
Medical treatment may include:
Elevation of the legs. You may be instructed to elevate your feet above the level of your heart 3 or 4 times a day for about 15 minutes at a time. If you need to sit or stand for a long period of time, flexing (bending) your legs occasionally can help keep blood circulating. If you have mild to moderate varicose veins, elevating your legs can help reduce leg swelling and relieve other symptoms.
Compression stockings. These elastic stockings squeeze the veins and prevent blood from pooling. Compression stockings can be effective if they are worn every day.
Sclerotherapy. Sclerotherapy is the most common treatment for both spider and varicose veins. A salt (saline) or chemical solution is injected into the varicose veins. They no longer carry blood. And, other veins take over.
Thermal ablation. Lasers or radiofrequency energy may be used to treat varicose veins. A tiny fiber is inserted into a varicose vein through a catheter. The laser or radiofrequency energy is used to deliver heat that destroys the wall of the varicose vein.
Vein stripping. This is surgery to remove varicose veins.
Microphlebectomy. Special tools inserted through small cuts (incisions) are used to remove varicose veins. It may be done alone or with vein stripping.
Varicose veins are usually not serious. But, complications may happen. They include:
Inflammation or swelling of veins (phlebitis)
Steps to prevent varicose veins include:
Keeping a healthy weight
Putting your feet up while sitting
Not crossing your legs while sitting
Not wearing tight clothing