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Varicose Veins


Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins that can occur anywhere a vein is close to skin, but they occur most often in the legs. Faulty valves in the veins and weakened and stretched vein walls cause varicose veins to develop.

Normally, veins send blood back to the heart. One-way valves in these veins keep the blood flowing efficiently against gravity up toward the heart. When these valves do not function properly, blood pools, pressure builds up, and the veins become engorged and weakened.

Symptoms include a dull, heavy aching or burning sensation, fatigue, and mild generalized swelling of the feet and ankles.

Varicose veins may result from conditions that increase pressure on the leg veins, such as obesity, pregnancy, or having a job that requires standing for long periods of time. Genetics, the aging process, and hormonal changes may also play a role in their development.

Self-care measures such as wearing compression stockings, elevating the legs, and exercising regularly may relieve symptoms and keep varicose veins from getting worse. Various treatments such as sclerotherapy, laser techniques, radiofrequency closure technique, and surgery are options when symptoms persist or if concern exists about the appearance of varicose veins.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerDavid A. Szalay, MD - Vascular Surgery
Last RevisedFebruary 1, 2012

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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