Varicose Veins

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that are visible just under the surface of the skin. They usually occur in the legs and ankles and can cause pain and discomfort. Varicose veins are a common condition, affecting up to 25 percent of adults in the United States.

Causes of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are caused by weakened valves in the veins. The valves normally keep the blood flowing in one direction, but when the valves become weakened the blood can backflow and collect in the veins, causing them to become enlarged and twisted.

Risk Factors of Varicose Veins

Several factors can increase your risk of developing varicose veins. These include:

  • Age - Older adults are more likely to develop varicose veins.
  • Gender - Women are more likely than men to develop varicose veins.
  • Pregnancy - Pregnancy can increase the risk of varicose veins.
  • Family history - Having a family history of varicose veins increases your risk.
  • Obesity - People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop varicose veins.

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins can cause several symptoms, including:

  • pain, itching, and burning in the affected area
  • swelling in the affected area
  • heavy feeling in the affected area
  • cramping or muscle spasms in the affected area
  • discoloration of the skin in the affected area
  • ulcers on the skin of the affected area

Treatments for Varicose Veins

Treatment for varicose veins can include lifestyle changes, medication, or medical procedures. Lifestyle changes include wearing compression stockings, elevating the affected leg, exercising regularly, and limiting standing or sitting for extended periods of time.

Pharmaceutical treatment of varicose veins may include anti-inflammatory medications, topical creams and ointments, or oral medications.

Medical procedures for treating varicose veins include sclerotherapy, in which a solution is injected into the affected vein, and endovenous laser ablation, in which a laser is used to seal off the affected vein. Surgery is rarely used to treat varicose veins.