Varicose veins are enlarged and swollen veins. They can occur anywhere in the body, but are particularly common in the pelvis and legs.
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Veins have one way valves to channel blood back to the heart. Varicose veins develop when the valves of the veins become damaged. This causes blood to pool in the veins, enlarging them and often making the veins just beneath the skin visible.
Factors that increase your risk of getting varicose veins include: Family members with varicose veinsSex: femaleAge: childbearing age and older
Hormonal changes, as with puberty, pregnancy, or
menopausePressure on the veins of the pelvis, as with pregnancy or an abdominal tumorObesityWorking at a job that requires standing on your feet for long periodsWearing knee-high socks or stockings with tight elasticPrevious leg injury
Symptoms include: Veins visible through the skin, appearing enlarged, twisted, and swollenAchy, tired, heavy feeling in the area of the varicose veins or generally in the legs, especially after standingLeg crampsBurning or throbbing pain in the legsItchingSwollen legs
In severe cases, skin changes below the area of the varicose veins, including:
RashesDiscolorationSores that are difficult to heal
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Varicose veins can be easily seen. An ultrasound
exam of your legs may also be done.
Sclerotherapy—injects the varicose veins with a chemical to shrink the veinsRadiofrequency occlusion—collapses and seals varicose veins using radiofrequency energyLaser or light source therapy—laser or light source energy used to seal, collapse, and dissolve varicose veinsSurgery—banding and removing varicose veins—only for severe cases
Avoid standing for long periods of time.Don't wear footwear that interferes with circulation.Rest with your legs elevated.Wear lightweight compression stockings. Wearing these may help improve circulation in the leg veins.
If you are diagnosed with varicose veins, follow your doctor's
Varicose veins can't be completely prevented, especially if they run in your family. The following recommendations may help: Maintain a healthy weight.Don't wear socks or stockings with tight elastic around your legs.Try to avoid regularly standing for long periods of time.
Gorroll A. Mulley A.
Primary Care Medicine
. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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