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Varicose veins are enlarged, swollen and twisting veins, frequently linked to faulty valves in the vein. They are generally blue or dark purple. In healthy veins, the valves within them stop the blood from remaining stagnant or flowing back - they only allow blood to flow in one direction. If the valves are damaged or weakened, they may allow the blood to flow backward and accumulate in the vein, making it varicose.
Varicose veins are caused by weakened valves and veins in your legs. Normally, one-way valves in your veins keep blood flowing from your legs up towards your heart. When these valves do not work as they should, blood collects in the legs and pressure builds up. The veins become weak, large, and twisted. If the walls of the vein become stretched and less flexible (elastic), the valves may get weaker. Varicose veins may also signal a higher risk of other circulatory problems.
Many people with varicose veins complain of pain, described as an aching or cramping in the legs. Other common symptoms include tiredness, restlessness, burning, throbbing, tingling or heaviness in the legs. That's because standing and walking upright increases the pressure in the veins of your lower body. Pain from these veins is usually relieved by elevating the legs or by wearing support hose. Occasionally, in very severe cases the varicose veins may rupture or varicose ulcers form on the skin.
Varicose veins can form anywhere in the body but most often they are seen in the veins in the legs and thighs. The thickened, twisting or dilated parts of the vein are called varicosities.
If you have varicose veins, you may see a vascular medicine specialist or a vascular surgeon. These are doctors who specialize in blood vessel conditions.
Varicose veins are treated with lifestyle changes and medical procedures. The goals of treatment are to relieve symptoms, prevent complications, and improve appearance. Your doctor may advise you to wear special compression socks or stockings. If lifestyle changes aren’t working, or if your varicose veins are causing a lot of pain or is damaging your overall health, your doctor might try an invasive procedure.
Currently, a wide variety of minimally invasive treatment options for varicose veins are available. These include:
You should always talk to your doctor about your treatment options and the risks before choosing a method. The method recommended can depend on your symptoms, size, and location of the varicose vein.
Measures that can be taken at home to improve pain and prevent varicose veins from worsening: