Varicose veins, which appear as unsightly bulges, usually on the legs, may be a medical, as well as cosmetic, problem. Varicose veins affect both men and women. According to the The National Institutes of Health, a quarter of patients who suffer from this condition are men. More women seek help for this disorder than men not only because more women suffer from them, but because in our culture women expose their legs more frequently to public view. Regardless of gender, however, varicose veins can be a serious problem requiring medical intervention.
Varicose veins are the result of diseased veins with weakened walls and valves. When veins are not functioning properly, they fail to return blood to the heart efficiently, and the blood begins to pool in the legs. This condition is known as venous insufficiency. When damaged valves are unable to keep blood moving in the proper direction, a backflow or pooling of blood results; this condition is referred to as venous reflux.
Patients with varicose veins do not always experience pain from this condition, although some may develop aching, throbbing, cramping and other symptoms that may indicate a need for medical attention. The symptoms of varicose veins may include:
- Large swollen veins
- Swelling, usually of the feet, ankle or leg
- Pain, aching, throbbing or cramping in the legs
- Heaviness in the legs
- Itching in the lower leg or ankle
- Discoloration of skin