Varicose Veins

Overview

If you have swollen, twisted veins beneath your skin, you have varicose veins. Most often, they are found in the legs and the feet. They can be painful, and many people feel embarrassed by them.

Causes

Varicose veins are caused by a problem with the one-way valves inside your veins. The valves help control blood flow. In your legs, for example, veins must fight gravity to lift your blood back up to your heart. The valves keep your blood from seeping back down in the brief moments between heartbeats. If your valves are weak or damaged, blood leaks down and pools in your veins. Your veins swell and stretch. They may begin to twist as they expand.

Risk Factors

Varicose veins are more common in women and in older people. Your risk is higher if you have a family history of the condition. Being overweight can increase your risk. Being pregnant can, too. Your risk is higher if you do a lot of standing or sitting all day, especially if you sit with crossed legs for long periods. And, previous blood clots or vein injuries can increase your risk.

Symptoms

Symptoms of varicose veins may include bulging veins and discolored skin. Your veins may be painful. In your legs, you may have aches and cramping and a heavy feeling. Your legs and ankles may itch. Your ankles and feet may swell. And if your condition is severe, you may develop a rash and sores on your skin.

Treatment

If you have varicose veins, you may benefit from losing weight or from wearing different shoes or clothes. It may help to raise your legs when you rest. Compression stocking may also help. You may benefit from a medical procedure to treat your veins. Your healthcare provider can create a plan that’s right for you.

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