Varicose Veins

Definition

Varicose veins are enlarged and swollen veins. They can occur anywhere in the body, but are particularly common in the surface veins in the legs.
Varicose Veins
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Causes

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.

Risk Factors

Varicose veins are more common in women who are of childbearing age and older. Other factors that increase your chance of getting varicose veins include:
  • Family members with varicose veins
  • Hormonal changes, as with puberty, pregnancy, or menopause
  • Pressure on the veins of the pelvis, as with pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Job that requires you to sit or stand for long periods of time without much movement
  • Smoking

Symptoms

Varicose veins may cause:
  • Enlarged, twisted, and swollen veins that are visible through the skin
  • Achy, tired, heavy feeling in the area of the varicose veins or generally in the legs, especially after standing
  • Leg cramps
  • Burning or throbbing pain in the legs
  • Itching
  • Swollen legs
In severe cases, varicose veins may cause skin changes. These changes occur under the area of the varicose veins and include:
  • Rashes
  • Discoloration
  • Sores that are difficult to heal

Diagnosis

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.

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