What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins near the surface of the skin. They are most common in the legs and ankles. Varicose veins usually aren't serious. In rare cases, they may be a sign of a more serious problem that may need treatment, such as deep vein thrombosis.
What causes varicose veins?
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 toward your heart. When these valves don't work as they should, blood collects in your legs, and pressure builds up. The veins become weak, large, and twisted.
Varicose veins often run in families. You may be born with defective valves or weak walls in your veins, or you may develop them later in life.
Varicose veins are more common in women than in men. And they happen more often as people get older.
Varicose veins often form during pregnancy. They might become less prominent after pregnancy and may disappear completely.
How are varicose veins treated?
Home treatment may be all you need to ease your symptoms and keep the varicose veins from getting worse. You can:
- Wear compression stockings.
- Prop up (elevate) your legs.
- Avoid long periods of sitting or standing.
- Get plenty of exercise.
If you need treatment or you're concerned about how the veins look, your options may include:
- Sclerotherapy to close off the vein.
- Laser treatment to close off the vein.
- Radiofrequency treatment to close off the vein.
- Phlebectomy, or stab avulsion, to remove the vein.
- Ligation and stripping to tie off and remove the vein.
Preventing varicose veins
Varicose veins may be prevented to some extent. Here are a few things you can try.
- Use compression stockings.
They improve circulation and are a mainstay of treatment for varicose veins that are causing symptoms.
- Get regular exercise.
Walk, bicycle, or swim to improve blood flow in your legs.
- Avoid long periods of standing or sitting.