A varicose vein is a swollen, twisted
, usually near the skin surface in the leg. They can be unsightly and cause tired, heavy or painful limbs. In severe cases, the veins can rupture, or open sores (varicose ulcers) can form on the skin. Women are most frequently affected, and other factors include a family history of varicose veins and advancing age. Sometimes, absence or weakness of valves in veins, which prevent the backward flow of blood away from the heart, may be a cause. Less commonly, varicose veins are due to diseases such as phlebitis (inflammation of the veins). Treatment is not always necessary for varicose veins, although severe cases, especially those involving ulcers, require treatment. Often, the varicose veins are removed to let blood flow through the remaining healthy veins. This can be done by surgery (
) or by a non-invasive procedure called
. In this procedure, saline (salt water) or a chemical solution is injected into the varicose vein. The vein will harden and then disappear.
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