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Varicose veins are enlarged, swollen, and tortuous (twisting) veins, frequently linked to faulty valves in the vein. They are generally blue or dark purple. People with bulging and/or lumpy varicose veins on their legs may experience cramping pain and heavy limbs. Occasionally, in very severe cases, the varicose veins may rupture, or varicose ulcers may form on the skin.
In healthy veins, the valves within them stop the blood from remaining stagnant or flowing back – they open and close so that the blood can only flow in one direction. If the valves are damaged or weakened, they may allow the blood to flow back and accumulate in the vein, making it varicose. Varicose simply means enlarged or swollen.
Although varicose veins may occur anywhere in the human body, they are most commonly found in the legs and feet, particularly in the calves. Experts say that standing and walking places extra pressure on the veins of the lower limbs.
In the majority of cases, varicose veins pose no health or circulation problems; although they may not look nice, they do not usually require treatment (for health reasons).
A number of patients, however, may experience swelling, aching and painful legs. If the patient is in considerable discomfort, or if complications, such as ulcers develop, then treatment is required.