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Varicose Veins: Symptoms and Causes

Veins are blood vessels that return deoxygenated blood from the outer parts of the body back to the heart and lungs. When veins become abnormally thick, full of twists and turns, or enlarged, they are called varicose veins. Generally, the veins in the legs and thighs have a tendency to become varicosed.


Visibly distended veins, especially in the calves and inner thighs of the legs. They are enlarged, bulging, bluish, and lumpy. Small ones can appear red and spidery.

A person affected by varicose veins.
Attribution: Jackerhack

There may be aching, the skin may have a tense or burning sensation and cramps may develop especially when making a sudden move as standing up. Hemorrhage under the skin may cause the skin to discolor (light brown to bluish).


The valves of the veins no longer function properly. They have become stretched from excess pressure. The valves in the veins that prevent blood from flowing backward do not work properly.

The deep veins are surrounded by muscles which keeps them in shape. It is those close to the surface (saphenous veins) which develop these problems. So much blood collects that it leaks out into surrounding tissue.

Contraceptive medications can induce varicose veins, as well as hormonal vasodilation just prior to menstruation. They can occur during pregnancy (especially during the first 3 months). About 15 percent of Americans experience the problem; most of these are women. Overweight individuals are the greatest risk. Heavy lifting is another causal factor.

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