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Leg 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.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

About Varicose Veins in the Legs

Varicose veins are mostly a cosmetic issue for a lot of people. They do not like the look of purple bumpy veins on their legs. It is estimated that about one out of every five adults have varicose veins. Although they are generally not a problem, they can cause symptoms such as heavy-feeling legs or muscle cramps in your lower legs. They only rarely lead to more serious medical conditions.

Varicose veins are superficial (just underneath the skin) veins that are lumpy. They may appear purple or blue through the skin, are swollen and sometimes bulge outward quite a lot. They are most commonly found on the backs of the calves or on the inner leg... Read more about Leg Varicose Veins

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Interventions for varicose veins and leg oedema in pregnancy

There is not enough evidence on treatments for varicose veins and leg oedema in pregnancy.

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

Use of a tourniquet during surgery for varicose veins

Varicose veins are obvious, dilated veins just under the skin. In normal veins the valves make sure blood only moves in one direction. The valves in varicose veins are faulty, allowing blood to pool and the veins to enlarge. This can cause aching legs, itching and poor cosmetic appearance. People with varicose veins may wear compression stockings, have an injection of irritant substance to close the veins under the skin (sclerotherapy), or have the veins removed surgically. There is a potential for large blood loss during surgery, especially if both legs are operated on at the same time. Tourniquets on the upper leg during surgery may be useful to minimise blood loss.

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Summaries for consumers

Interventions for varicose veins and leg oedema in pregnancy

There is not enough evidence on treatments for varicose veins and leg oedema in pregnancy.

Varicose veins: What are the outcomes of surgery?

There are different types of surgery for getting rid of varicose veins and relieving their symptoms. But sometimes varicose veins develop again afterwards.

Use of a tourniquet during surgery for varicose veins

Varicose veins are obvious, dilated veins just under the skin. In normal veins the valves make sure blood only moves in one direction. The valves in varicose veins are faulty, allowing blood to pool and the veins to enlarge. This can cause aching legs, itching and poor cosmetic appearance. People with varicose veins may wear compression stockings, have an injection of irritant substance to close the veins under the skin (sclerotherapy), or have the veins removed surgically. There is a potential for large blood loss during surgery, especially if both legs are operated on at the same time. Tourniquets on the upper leg during surgery may be useful to minimise blood loss.

See all (26)

Terms to know

Arteries
A blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to tissues and organs in the body.
Blood
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.
Capillaries
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.
Heart
The hollow, muscular organ that maintains the circulation of the blood.
Lungs
One of a pair of organs in the chest that supplies the body with oxygen, and removes carbon dioxide from the body.
Oxygen
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.
Thrombosis
Formation of a blood clot within a blood vessel or the heart.
Veins
Blood vessels that carry blood to the heart.

More about Leg Varicose Veins

Photo of an adult woman

Also called: VV, VVs

Other terms to know: See all 9
Arteries, Blood, Blood Vessels

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How Blood Circulation Works

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