Varicose veins are enlarged and swollen veins that are most common in the thighs, lower legs and ankles. In some cases, varicose veins can be more than just a cosmetic concern. Varicose veins can cause pain and swelling in the legs, especially the lower legs.
The blood that goes to your legs and feet returns to the heart through veins in the legs. However, the blood has to fight gravity to get back up through the body. For this reason, veins have valves that prevent the backflow of blood. Sometimes, when these valves are leaky and do not function properly, the veins can become swollen with blood. This causes the veins to be visibly darkened, twisted and enlarged underneath the skin. Varicose veins tend to be most prominent when you are standing, especially for long periods of time.
Mild varicose veins are sometimes called spider veins. Mild varicose veins do not usually cause problems, but they can get worse over time. Severe varicose veins can cause pain and swelling in the lower legs, which may feel like aching or heaviness of your legs. They can also be associated with skin sores and increased bleeding when the legs are injured. Some people with varicose veins may have problems with deeper blood vessels in the legs, such as deep vein thrombosis.
Varicose veins are usually treated at home. Without treatment, varicose veins tend to get worse over time. Avoiding long periods of standing can improve varicose veins. When you are sleeping, raising your legs can help the circulation in your legs and reduce swelling. You can also elevate your legs while you are resting. Compression stockings are also suggested to improve varicose veins.
There are also medical procedures that can be used in the treatment of varicose veins. Varicose veins can be removed surgically or tied off. Nonsurgical options include injecting a chemical into the vein that causes the vein to be closed off; this is called sclerotherapy. Laser treatment and radiotherapy are other ways to accomplish this nonsurgically. Typically, these treatments are suggested in cases where varicose veins are severe and are causing a lot of pain to the patient, and home remedies are suggested in mild cases of varicose veins. However, some people choose to get varicose veins medically treated for cosmetic reasons.