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Varicose Veins

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are twisted and enlarged veins, commonly in your legs and feet. While any vein may become varicose, legs and feet are at a higher risk because standing and walking upright increases the pressure in the veins of your lower body.

Varicose veins are not considered a serious medical condition. But, they can be uncomfortable and can lead to more serious problems.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

They’re caused by weakened valves and veins in your legs. Typically, the one-way valves within your veins keep the blood flowing from your legs up toward your heart. But, when these valves don’t work properly, blood can collect in your legs, building up pressure. This causes veins to become weak, large and gnarled.

Risks of Varicose Veins

While some varicose veins and spider veins – a common, mild variation of varicose veins – are a cosmetic concern, some are more serious. For some people, their varicose veins can cause an aching or heavy feeling in the legs; throbbing, cramping and swelling in the lower legs; itching around one or more of the veins; or skin ulcers near the ankle, which may signal a more serious form of vascular disease that requires medical attention.

Varicose veins may even lead to more complications. Occasionally, veins deep within the legs become enlarged, causing the leg to swell considerably. Seek immediate medical attention if a leg suddenly swells – it could indicate a blood clot.

How to Treat Varicose Veins

There are several simple, non-invasive treatments that can alleviate varicose veins. At home, you can ease symptoms and prevent varicose veins from worsening by:

  • Wearing compression stockings
  • Elevating your legs
  • Avoiding long periods of sitting or standing
  • Getting plenty of exercise
  • Losing excess weight

If those self-care measures don’t treat your varicose veins or if your condition is more severe, there’s an array of treatments your doctor can discuss with you. And thanks to less invasive procedures, varicose veins can often be treated on an outpatient basis.