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Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that you can see just under the surface of the skin. These veins usually occur in the legs, but they also can form in other parts of the body. NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

About Varicose Veins

Varicose (VAR-i-kos) veins are swollen, twisted veins that you can see just under the surface of the skin. These veins usually occur in the legs, but they also can form in other parts of the body.

Varicose veins are a common condition. They usually cause few signs and symptoms. Sometimes varicose veins cause mild to moderate pain, blood clots, skin ulcers (sores), or other problems.


Veins are blood vessels that carry blood from your body's tissues to your heart. Your heart pumps the blood to your lungs to pick up oxygen. The oxygen-rich blood then is pumped to your body through blood vessels called arteries.

From your arteries, the blood flows through tiny blood vessels called capillaries, where it gives up its oxygen to the body's tissues. Your blood then returns to your heart through your veins to pick up more oxygen. For more information about blood flow, go to the Health Topics... Read more about Varicose Veins

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Sclerotherapy for leg varicose veins

Bibliographic details: Corabian P, Harstall C.  Sclerotherapy for leg varicose veins. Edmonton, AB, Canada: Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research. Information Paper; IP 19. 2004 Available from: http://www.ihe.ca/hta/publications.html?Category=Information%20Papers

Endovascular radiofrequency ablation for varicose veins: an evidence-based analysis

Bibliographic details: Medical Advisory Secretariat.  Endovascular radiofrequency ablation for varicose veins: an evidence-based analysis. Toronto, ON, Canada: Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. Ontario Health Technology Assessment Series; 11(1). 2011 Available from: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/mas/tech/ohtas/tech_rfa_vv_20110216.html

Neurological complications of sclerotherapy for varicose veins

BACKGROUND: Sclerotherapy has been shown to be an effective and increasingly popular therapeutic strategy for the treatment of varicose veins. However, recent reports of serious side effects, including cerebrovascular accidents (CVA) and transient ischemic attacks (TIA), as well as speech and visual disturbances, have caused serious concern regarding its use. This review evaluated the reported incidences of neurological side effects associated with the use of sclerotherapy.

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Summaries for consumers

Varicose veins: What are the advantages and disadvantages of sclerotherapy?

Sclerotherapy, which is used to close off varicose veins, has fewer complications than surgery. But it is also less effective.

Varicose veins: Surgery: What results can be expected?

Different types of surgery are available for removing varicose veins and relieving their symptoms, but new varicose veins can sometimes grow back. It usually takes about one to three weeks to fully recover from the operation.

Varicose veins: Surgical and non-surgical treatment options

Varicose veins are one of the most common reasons for having surgery, but that is not the only way to relieve symptoms. Here we explain the main options, and let you know when swollen legs might be a sign of something other than varicose veins.Compression stockings are the most common self-treatment option. The idea behind this is that the hosiery helps the muscles push on the veins to help keep the blood flowing. There has not yet been enough research to tell whether hosiery helps, when it helps, and what kinds of socks are the most effective. This does not mean that wearing these types of socks has no benefit – just that more research is needed on this subject.

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Terms to know

A blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to tissues and organs in the body.
A tissue with red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and other substances suspended in fluid called plasma. Blood takes oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, and carries away wastes.
Blood Vessels
Tubes that carry blood to and from all parts of the body. The three main types of blood vessels are arteries, capillaries, and veins.
The smallest of the body's blood vessels. Oxygen and glucose pass through capillary walls and enter the cells. Waste products such as carbon dioxide pass back from the cells into the blood through capillaries.
The hollow, muscular organ that maintains the circulation of the blood.
One of a pair of organs in the chest that supplies the body with oxygen, and removes carbon dioxide from the body.
A colorless, odorless gas. It is needed for animal and plant life. Oxygen that is breathed in enters the blood from the lungs and travels to the tissues.

More about Varicose Veins

Photo of an adult woman

Also called: Phlebectasia, Varices, Uneven venous ectasia, Varicosities, Venous ectasia, VV, VVs

Other terms to know: See all 7
Arteries, Blood, Blood Vessels

Related articles:
How the Heart Works
How Blood Circulation Works

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