Varicose veins (varicosities) are twisted, enlarged veins at the skin surface. The word comes from the Latin word varix, which means “twisted”.
Varicose veins occur due to poor functioning (malfunction) of valves in the deeper leg veins (venous insufficiency), making blood back up (pool) in the legs, with the resulting pressure causing surface veins to enlarge.[/ultimate_heading]
Varicose veins affect up to 60% of American adults. Women are more often affected than men.
You are at greater risk if you:
- Are older
- Have other family members with varicose veins
- Are overweight
- Stand for long periods of time
- Varicose veins
Often first occur during pregnancy, when the growing baby exerts pressure on the mother’s leg veins.
Compression stockings (to help blood return to the heart and give extra support to the damaged veins) are the first thing to try. This may be difficult, as you must search for the proper kind, and they are tighter and require more effort to put on than regular hoses and socks. However, wearing compression stockings is the most important thing you can do and will be required by any doctor you see.
For the maximum benefit, compression stockings must be worn every day and put on when first getting out of bed, before gravity has a chance to cause the legs to swell. Non-prescription compression (or pressure) stockings are sold in many pharmacies and medical supply stores. They are also available on the Internet. Many styles, colors, and strengths are available. Make sure they fit properly. You may need to measure your leg to assure proper fit. For people with arthritis, there are devices to help you put on compression stockings.
To prevent varicose veins from getting worse:
- Lose weight
- Avoid tight clothing, which holds back blood from returning to the heart
- Elevate your legs
- Avoid long periods of standing.