(1) Varicose vein: A dilated (widened) tortuous (twisting) vein, usually involving a superficial vein in the leg, often associated with incompetency of the valves in the vein. These visible and bulging veins are often associated with symptoms such as tired, heavy, or aching limbs. In severe cases, varicose veins can rupture, or open sores (varicose ulcers) can form on the skin.
Varicose veins most frequently affect women. A family history of varicose veins and advancing age factors. In some cases, absence or weakness of valves in veins, which prevent the backward flow of blood away from the heart, may cause the varicosities. In other cases, weaknesses in the vein walls cause blood to pool. Less commonly, varicose veins are due to diseases such as phlebitis (inflammation of the veins).
Varicose veins are usually progressive and cannot be prevented entirely. However, wearing support stockings and maintaining normal weight and regular exercise may be beneficial.
Treatment is not always necessary for varicose veins. Severe cases, especially those involving ulcers, require treatment. Varicose veins are frequently treated by eliminating the varicose veins to let blood flow through the remaining healthy veins. This can be done by surgery or sclerotherapy. Varicose vein surgery is commonly referred to as stripping. Sclerotherapy uses a fine needle to inject a solution directly that irritates the lining of the vein, causing it to swell and the blood to clot. The vein turns into scar tissue that fades from view.
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The most common form of varicose veins progresses downward in either or both of two large veins near the surface of the leg