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Ever wondered what varicose veins are? Well, they’re thrawn and swollen veins in the legs, often black or purple in color.

They’re largely innocuous, but can result in bruising, heavy and/or swollen legs, and itching. Other symptoms include:

  • Skin discoloration around the varicose vein
  • Exacerbated pain after sitting, or standing for extended periods
  • Bleeding veins, chronic inflammation, ulcers (most severe cases)
  • Lipodermatosclerosis – skin shrinking due to fat under the skin above the ankle becoming hard
  • Talengiectasia – spider veins
  • Varicose eczema – skin in affected area becomes red, dry, and itchy
  • Restless sleeping syndrome (large contingent of sufferers)
  • Leg crams while standing up (some sufferers)

Figure 1 -Varicose Veins


Varicose veins are a common condition. They are a result of damaged, or weak, vein walls and valves. They may also with the increase of blood pressure in the vein walls. You see, veins have “one way” valves to ensure that blood doesn’t flow backwards -proper blood circulation involves arteries carrying the blood from the heart to the rest of the body, and the veins returning the blood from the body back to the heart. When the valves malfunction blood can stop flowing, and subsequently pool in the vein, resulting in damage, twisting, and swelling.

Varicose veins specifically occur in the lower legs as these areas are furthest from the heart. In essence, you veins have to work “double time” in tandem with muscle contractions to pump the blood back to the heart.

other causes include:

  • Pregnancy – to aid the growing fetus, blood volume increases. The side effect comes in the form of enlarged veins
  • Obesity – added weight exacerbates pressure on the veins
  • Family history –  varicose veins can be hereditary
  • Age – old age can take a toll on the valves, progressively leading to malfunction


Preventative Measures

Unfortunately, there is no absolute, one-size-fits-all preventative measure, nor a cure, but a few preventative measures can be implemented:

  • Exercise
  • Weight watching
  • Compression socks/stockings
  • Dietary changes – high fiber/low salt diet
  • Regular elevation of the legs
  • Change sitting/standing position regularly



Hopefully one has given food for thought instead of nightmares. Remember, varicose veins are not life threatening – they can however get worse, even with the preventative measures, but they are not life threatening, nor do they contribute to any long term medical problems. Naturally, you’re always better off consulting your trusted healthcare professional should you have any symptoms, especially in more severe cases.


L. D. Dube

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