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The veins in our body are designed to carry the blood back to the heart where it can be sent to the lungs and then back out to our body. (Read about "Vascular System") To prevent the blood from flowing backwards, there are valves that keep the blood going in the right direction. Sometimes those valves weaken or don't work correctly and the blood does back up. When that happens, the blood can collect and the veins become congested and clogged. The result is varicose veins. Most of the time varicose veins show up in the legs, and they are dark purple and swollen. Varicose veins can show up in other places however. For example, hemorrhoids (Read about "Hemorrhoids") are also a varicose vein.
The National Women's Health Information Center (NWHIC) estimates that 50 percent of all women are affected by varicose veins. Men have a much lower incidence. Though the exact cause of varicose veins isn't known, heredity and hormones are suspected. Women undergo more hormonal changes than men and more often because of pregnancy, birth control and menopause. (Read about "Menopause") Also during pregnancy, there is an increase in the amount of blood in the body that can cause the veins to enlarge. Other factors according to NWHIC include:
Varicose veins usually appear in the legs because the veins there have the toughest job getting the blood back to the heart because of the distance and gravity.
Varicose veins often do not require treatment though many people treat them for cosmetic purposes. Treatments, according to the American Academy of Dermatologists and the American College of Phlebology include:
A plastic surgeon is often involved in performing these procedures, though other doctors can perform some of them as well. (Read about "Plastic Surgery")
Varicose veins can worsen over time and if the situation becomes severe can have complications such as deep vein thrombosis (Read about "Deep Vein Thrombosis") if the leg is injured. That can have other complications, even deadly ones such as pulmonary embolism. (Read about "Pulmonary Embolism")
There are things you can do to try to prevent varicose veins in the first place. The following is from the NWHIC:
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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