Varicose veins are englarged, abnormal, twisted veins and typically develop within the legs’ superficial veins. Usually, superficial veins have valves that travel one-way that help blood flow back to the heart. If the valves become open and non-functioning, blood will pool in the veins. This causes them to swell and become varicose. At times varicose veins can also develop due to structural weaknesses in the vein wall. They can also occur due to higher than normal blood pressure within the veins.
Varicose veins are rope-like vessels under the skin and are usually purple or blue in colour. Varicose veins affect nearly 20-30% of the population, so are a common problem. Women are usually more affected by varicose veins than men by two to three times. They are also known as spider veins, thread veins, star veins and matted veins.
The most common varicose veins are telangiectasias, or spider veins, which are small dilated blood vessels. These can occur near the surface of the skin or mucous membranes, and measure between 0.5 and 1mm in diameter.
It is common for varicose veins to develop in people who are on their feet a lot for their occupations, for women following childbirth, and for those who have a family history of the condition. They can be more prominent after lengthy periods of exercise, standing for a long time or the effects of hot weather.
The visual appearance is an obvious sign of varicose veins, however there can be other symptoms associated with the condition including swelling, restless legs, fatigue, feelings of heaviness in the legs, aches, pains, persistent or recurring ulceration, throbbing, itching, burning or cramping sensations.