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varicose veins

Varicose veins are enlarged veins.  Any vein may become varicose, but the veins in the legs and feet are most often affected because standing and walking upright increases the pressure in the veins of the lower body.  Veins carry blood from other parts of the body to the heart.  The process of carrying  blood to the heart requires that the veins in the legs must work against gravity. Muscle contractions in the lower legs, acting like a pump help the vein return the blood to the heart.  Tiny valves in the veins ensure that the blood flow is one-way.  Over time, veins can lose elasticity, causing them to stretch.  The valves in the veins may become weak, allowing blood to flow backward.  This blood pools in the veins causing the veins to enlarge and become varicose.


Symptoms may include:


  • veins appear blue - because they contain deoxygenated blood
  • achy or heavy feeling in the legs
  • burning, throbbing, muscle cramping and swelling in the lower legs
  • itching around one or more of your veins
  • skin ulcers near the ankle
  • dark purple or blue in colored veins may appear twisted and bulging

Causes may include:


  • heredity
  • aging
  • being overweight
  • pregnancy - the volume of blood in your body increases during pregnancy, but the flow of blood from your legs to your pelvis decreases which can result in varicose veins

Treatment may include:


  • home remedies:
    • exercising
    • losing weight
    • loose clothing
    • elevating legs
    • avoiding long periods of standing or sitting — can ease pain and prevent varicose veins from getting worse
  • sclerotherapy -  small and medium sized varicose veins are injected with a solution that scars and closes those veins
  • laser surgeries - laser treatments used to close off smaller varicose veins and spider veins
  • catheter-assisted procedures - a thin tube (catheter) is inserted into an enlarged vein.  The tip of the catheter is heated and as the catheter is pulled out, the heat destroys the vein by causing it to collapse and seal shut (usually done for larger varicose veins)
  • vein stripping - removes a long vein through small incisions
  • ambulatory phlebectomy - removes smaller varicose veins through a series of tiny skin punctures
  • endoscopic vein surgery

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Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton Hamilton. Phone: 609-586-7900 Physician Referral: 609-584-5900.

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