Varicose veins are enlarged and swollen veins. They’re most common in the legs, but can happen anywhere.
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Veins carry blood back to the heart. Valves help the blood flow in the right direction. Varicose veins happen when these valves are damaged. The blood does not move as it should and pools in the veins. The extra blood stretches the vein and makes them bigger. They are also easier to see under the skin.
Varicose veins are more common in women and older adults. Other things that increase the risk of varicose veins includes:
Common problems include:
Skin changes may result in:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may point to varicose veins. A Doppler ultrasound may also be done. It will help to show blood flow through veins.
Varicose veins do not always need treatment. Steps that may help to ease pressure on the veins include:
Compression stockings may help to ease symptoms. They may help improve blood flow in your legs. Further care may be needed if symptoms do not respond to other treatment. The veins may be blocked or shrunk with procedures such as:
Steps to decrease the risk of varicose veins include:
American College of Phlebology
Society for Vascular Surgery
Canadian Society for Vascular Surgery
Varicose veins. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116699/Varicose-veins . Updated June 11, 2019. Accessed September 27, 2019.
Varicose veins. Society for Vascular surgery website. Available at: https://vascular.org/patient-resources/vascular-conditions/varicose-veins. Accessed September 27, 2019.
Varicose veins and spider veins. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/varicose-veins-and-spider-veins. Updated March 16, 2018. Accessed September 27, 2019.
Last reviewed September 2019 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 9/27/2019