What, who and why
What are varicose veins? Varicose veins are enlarged veins that are often raised above the skin and look like twisted, bulging cords. They may be associated with pain, aches, heaviness, restless legs or burning and itching of the skin.
Who gets them? Varicose veins are twice as common in women as men—and are even more common in older women. Things that increase your risk of having varicose veins include family history, older age, pregnancy, being overweight or obese and standing or sitting in one position for long periods of time.
What causes them? Varicose veins happen when veins aren’t functioning properly. Healthy veins have one-way valves that open and close to help get blood back to the heart. Sometimes those valves become weakened, diseased or damaged and are no longer able to maintain the healthy flow of blood back to the heart. When this happens, blood can pool in the veins, leading to varicose veins and other symptoms. This happens most often in the legs because the veins there are furthest from the heart and are working against gravity to return blood to it.