Merck Manual Varicose Veins

Updated on: August 18, 2014

Varicose veins?

Varicose veins are the unsightly superficial veins typically seen on the legs. These bluish veins are a considerable source of distress to women and may even be a cause of leg aches and fatigue. Varicose veins are quite common in the North American population and estimates indicate that at least 30-50 million individuals are affected by it. Varicose veins are more common after the 2nd or 3rd decade of life and women appear to be more affected than men.

Varicose veins unfortunately have no cure and once developed continue to progress. Besides appearing unsightly, they may also cause leg swelling, skin discoloration and a sense of heaviness in the leg. Varicose veins seldom disappear on their own.

What causes varicose veins?

The superficial veins in the leg have no ability to withstand high pressures. Any condition which causes high venous pressures such as pregnancy, obesity or heart failure (fluid overload) can lead to formation of varicose veins. Destruction of the one way valves in the veins can also lead to pooling of the blood in the veins.

Who is susceptible to varicose veins?

Varicose veins are common in:

- pregnancy

- obese individuals

- after prolonged standing

- trauma

What are symptoms of varicose veins?

Not all individuals with varicose veins have symptoms. The symptoms when they occur may include:

- unattractive large bluish veins

- fatigue and heaviness in legs

- swelling of the feet

- itchiness or throbbing in the feet

- skin discoloration around the ankles

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