Varicose veins are superficial veins that have become enlarged and twisted. Typically they occur just under the skin in the legs.Usually they result in few symptoms but some may experience fullness or pain in the area. Complications may include bleeding or superficial thrombophlebitis. When varices occur in the scrotum it is known as a varicocele while those around the anus are known as hemorrhoids.
Often there is no specific cause. Risk factors include obesity, not enough exercise, leg trauma, and a family history of the condition. They also occur more commonly in pregnancy. Occasionally they result from chronic venous insufficiency. The underlying mechanism involves weak or damaged valves in the veins. Diagnosis is typically by examination and may be supported by ultrasound. In contrast spider veins involve the capillaries and are smaller.
Treatment may involve life-style changes or medical procedures with the goal of improving symptoms and appearance. Life-style changes may include compression stockings, exercise, elevating the legs, and weight loss. Medical procedures include sclerotherapy, laser surgery, and vein stripping. Following treatment there is often reoccurrence.
Varicose veins are more common in women than in men and are linked with heredity. Other related factors are pregnancy, obesity, menopause, aging, prolonged standing, leg injury and abdominal straining. Varicose veins are unlikely to be caused by crossing the legs or ankles. Less commonly, but not exceptionally, varicose veins can be due to other causes, such as post-phlebitic obstruction or incontinence, venous and arteriovenous malformations