What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that you can see just under the surface of the skin.
These veins usually occur in the legs, but they also can form in other parts of the body.
Varicose veins are a common condition. Sometimes varicose veins cause mild to moderate pain, blood clots, skin ulcers (sores), or other
Veins are blood vessels that carry blood from your body's tissues to your heart. Your heart
pumps the blood to your lungs to pick up oxygen. The oxygen-rich blood then is pumped to your
body through blood vessels called arteries.
From your arteries, the blood flows through tiny blood vessels called capillaries, where it gives
up its oxygen to the body's tissues. Your blood then returns to your heart through your veins to
pick up more oxygen.
Veins have one-way valves that help keep blood flowing toward your heart. If the valves are
weak or damaged, blood can back up and pool in your veins. This causes the veins to swell,
which can lead to varicose veins.
Many factors can raise your risk for varicose veins. Examples of these factors include family
history, older age, gender, pregnancy, overweight or obesity, and lack of movement.
Varicose veins are treated with lifestyle changes and medical procedures. The goals of treatment
are to relieve symptoms, prevent complications, and improve appearance.
Varicose veins usually don't cause medical problems. If they do, your doctor may simply suggest
making lifestyle changes.
Sometimes varicose veins cause pain, blood clots, skin ulcers, or other problems. If this happens,
your doctor may recommend one or more medical procedures. Some people choose to have these
procedures to improve the way their veins look or to relieve pain.
Many treatments for varicose veins are quick and easy and don't require a long recovery.
Who Is at Risk for Varicose Veins?
Many factors may raise your risk for varicose veins, including family history, older age, gender, pregnancy, overweight or obesity, and lack of movement.
Having family members who have varicose veins may raise your risk for the condition. About half of all people who have varicose veins have a family history of them.
Getting older may raise your risk for varicose veins. The normal wear and tear of aging may cause the valves in your veins to weaken and not work well.
Women tend to get varicose veins more often than men. Hormonal changes that occur during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause (or with the use of birth control pills) may raise a woman's risk for varicose veins.
During pregnancy, the growing fetus puts pressure on the veins in the mother's legs. Varicose veins that occur during pregnancy usually get better within 3 to 12 months of delivery.
Overweight or Obesity
Being overweight or obese can put extra pressure on your veins. This can lead to varicose veins.
Lack of Movement
Standing or sitting for a long time, especially with your legs bent or crossed, may raise your risk
for varicose veins. This is because staying in one position for a long time may force your veins to
work harder to pump blood to your heart.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Varicose Veins?
The signs and symptoms of varicose veins include:
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- Large veins that you can see just under the surface of your skin.
- Mild swelling of your ankles and feet.
- Painful, achy, or "heavy" legs.
- Throbbing or cramping in your legs.
- Itchy legs, especially on the lower leg and ankle. Sometimes this symptom is incorrectly diagnosed as dry skin.
- Discolored skin in the area around the varicose vein.
Daniel J. McGraw, MD
705 Garfield Avenue, Suite 460
Parkersburg, WV 26101