Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted and bulging veins that can be flesh-colored, dark purple or blue. They are found most often under the skin of the calf and thigh. They develop in the system of superficial veins returning blood to the heart from the legs. Varicose veins may cause some discomfort, but usually pose little threat to your health.
Varicose veins occur when there is increased pressure within a weakened vein. Pressure increases from gravity when we are standing or walking. It can also increase from prolonged sitting. In women, varicose veins often begin during pregnancy as pressure from the enlarging fetus slows blood flow from leg veins and increases pressure within them. Varicose veins are more common in some families than others, indicating a genetic predisposition.
Some common symptoms of varicose veins include:
- Aching pain
- Easily tired legs
- Leg heaviness
- Swelling in the legs
- Darkening of the skin (in severe cases)
- Numbness in the legs
- Itching or irritated rash in the legs
Treatment & Prevention
Although an inherited weakness of the vein wall cannot be prevented, measures to limit progressive enlargement of varicose veins are very effective. These include:
- Use elastic compression stockings up to the knee.
- Avoid prolonged sitting or standing.
- Take frequent short walks to increase blood flow.
- Avoid any tight garments around the thigh or calf, groin and waist.
- Avoid wearing high-heeled shoes.
- Elevate your legs.
- Don’t sit with legs crossed.
- Pregnant women can wear elastic compression hose during the last trimester to help avoid the development of varicose veins, or to prevent their enlargement.
American Venous Forum
Vascular Disease Coalition