Varicose veins are swollen and enlarged veins that usually occur on the legs and feet. They can be blue or dark purple and are often lumpy, bulging or twisted in appearance.
Varicose veins develop when the small valves inside the veins stop working properly. In a healthy vein, blood flows smoothly to the heart. The blood is prevented from flowing backwards by a series of small valves that open and close to let blood through. If the valves are weakened or damaged, the blood can flow backwards and collect in the vein, eventually causing it to swell and enlarge (varicose veins).
- aching, heavy and uncomfortable legs
- swollen feet and ankles
- burning or throbbing in the legs
- muscle cramps in the legs, especially at night
- dry, itchy and thin skin over the affected vein
Symptoms are usually worse in hot weather or if you have been standing for long periods of time. They may improve when you walk around or if you rest and elevate your legs.
The following may increase the risk of developing varicose veins:
- being a woman
- a job that involves long periods of standing
Tips to relieve varicose veins discomfort: wear compression stockings, exercise regularly and elevate the affected area when resting. If your varicose veins are still causing you pain or discomfort, or if they are causing complications, they can be treated with different techniques by doctors.