Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that you can see just under the skin. Any vein may become varicose, but the veins most commonly affected are those in your legs and feet. That's because standing and walking upright increases the pressure in the veins of your lower body. For many people, varicose veins and spider veins (a common, mild variation of varicose veins), are simply a cosmetic concern. For other people, varicose veins can cause aching pain and discomfort. Sometimes varicose veins lead to more-serious problems. Hemorrhoids are also a type of varicose vein.
Your veins have one-way valves that help keep blood flowing toward your heart. If the valves are weak or damaged, blood can back up and pool in your veins. This causes the veins to swell, which can lead to varicose veins.
Varicose veins are very common. You are more at risk if you are older, a female, obese, don't exercise or have a family history. They can also be more common in pregnancy.
Exercising, losing weight and not crossing your legs when sitting can help keep varicose veins from getting worse. Elevating the legs often provides temporary symptomatic relief. The wearing of graduated compression stockings with variable pressure gradients has been shown to correct the swelling, nutritional exchange, and improve the microcirculation in legs affected by varicose veins. Wearing loose clothing and avoiding long periods of standing can also help. If varicose veins are painful or you don't like the way they look, your doctor may recommend procedures to remove them.