Varicose veins is a medical condition referring to veins that have become swollen and twisted due to an abnormal collection of blood. This typically occurs in the legs because of the pressure of standing and walking, although the problem can also occur elsewhere in the body.
Normally, blood veins in the legs contain small valves that prevent blood from flowing down gravitationally. The condition occurs when these valves fail to do their job, causing an abnormal amount of blood to collect in the veins. The veins become swollen, twisted and very painful. Patients typically have swollen ankles coupled with unbearable pain, which tends to worsen during the night or after prolonged exercise. The affected area also tends to be very itchy as the skin tends to lose moisture. If there are minor injuries to the affected leg, healing takes longer than normal or bleeding doesnâ€™t stop easily.
Studies show that the condition occurs more frequently in females due to certain risk factors like pregnancy and menopause. However, there have also been cases where there is no known cause for the condition. It is often considered hereditary, but can also be caused by inability of the valves in the legs to work properly. Risk factors for the condition include age, obesity, pregnancy, a habit of crossing the legs at the knees when seated, and prolonged standing like in the case of workers who are on their feet for most of the day. The older a person is, the more fragile their bones, thus making them prone to the condition. While pregnancy increases pressure in the abdomen area, obesity increases the amount of pressure on the legs in general.
Varicose veins is a treatable condition. Treatment options include regular exercise, wearing special stockings or putting the legs up to relieve the strain. Severe cases, which are very rare, can lead to serious complications requiring surgery.