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Are varicose veins a health risk?
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Are varicose veins a health risk?

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Varicose veins

Varicose veins are typically viewed as a mild, non-life-threatening condition that is more of a cosmetic annoyance than a serious health problem.

Q. I have a lot of varicose veins. Do they present any sort of a health risk?

A. Varicose veins are typically viewed as a mild, non-life-threatening condition that is more of a cosmetic annoyance than a serious health problem. That said, varicose veins can be associated with some health-related issues, such as swelling in the legs, blood clots, or damage to the skin caused by pressure from the veins. They may also make you more prone to skin damage, infections, and ulcers.

Varicose veins are raised, often twisted veins, most commonly found in the legs. Normally, valves inside the veins regulate the flow of blood as it moves toward the heart. If these valves malfunction, some of the blood slides backward inside the vein toward the feet. The blood starts to back up inside the veins, making them swell, so they are visible under the skin. Varicose veins commonly run in families, but other factors can contribute to their development, including pregnancy, obesity, or standing or sitting for long periods of time.

To help prevent varicose veins from forming or getting larger if you already have them, stay physically active and avoid long periods of sitting.

— By Hope Ricciotti, M.D., and Toni Golen, M.D.

Editors in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

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