Varicose veins are enlarged and distended veins. They
can occur anywhere in the body, but are particularly
common in the pelvis and legs.
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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.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of
getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for
varicose veins include:
Family members with varicose veins
Age: childbearing age and older
Hormonal changes, as with puberty, pregnancy, or
Pressure on the veins of the pelvis, as with
pregnancy or an abdominal tumor
Working at a job that requires standing on your
feet for long periods
Wearing knee-high socks or stockings with tight
Previous leg injury
Veins visible through the skin, appearing
enlarged, twisted, and swollen
Achy, tired, heavy feeling in the area of the
varicose veins or generally in the legs,
especially after standing
Burning or throbbing pain in the legs
In severe cases, skin changes below the area of
the varicose veins, including:
Sores that are difficult to heal
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical
history, and perform a physical exam. Varicose veins can
be easily seen. Initial diagnosis can be done during a
simple physical examination. Your doctor may also wish
to order an ultrasound examination of your leg veins.
Sclerotherapy — injecting the varicose veins
with a chemical to shrink the veins
Radiofrequency occlusion — collapses and seals
varicose veins by using radiofrequency energy
Laser or light source therapy — laser or light
source energy used to seal, collapse, and
dissolve varicose veins
Surgery — banding and removing varicose veins
(only for severe cases)
Avoid standing for long periods of time.
Don't wear footwear that interferes with
Rest with your legs elevated.
Wear lightweight compression stockings.
Wearing these may help improve
circulation in the leg veins.
If you are diagnosed with varicose veins, follow
your doctor's instructions .
Varicose veins can't necessarily be completely
prevented, especially if they run in your family. The
following recommendations may help prevent varicose
Maintain a healthy weight.
Don't wear socks or stockings with tight elastic
around your legs.
Try to avoid regularly standing for long periods
American College of Phlebology http://www.phlebology.org/
American Society of Plastic Surgeons http://www.plasticsurgery.org/
Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery http://csaps.ca/
Canadian Society for Vascular Surgery http://canadianvascular.ca/
American College of Phlebology website. Available at:
http://www.phlebology.org . Accessed July 15, 2009.
Gorroll A. Mulley A. Primary Care Medicine . 4th ed.
Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000.
Reviewer: Michael J. Fucci, DO
Review Date: 09/2012
Update Date: 00/92/2012