60-percent of adults suffer from varicose veins. They're unsightly and uncomfortable — but they can also impact your health. Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins near the surface of the skin. They most commonly appear in the legs and ankles. If left untreated, varicose veins can cause a whole lot of discomfort. But they can also lead to more serious medical problems, such as ulcers and bleeding.

What causes varicose veins?

Many veins in the body contain one-way valves to control blood flow. Your legs have valves designed to keep blood flowing from your legs up toward your heart. These valves can grow weak over time. When they do not work as they should, blood collects in your legs, and pressure builds up. As a result, the veins become even weaker, larger and twisted. Varicose veins occur in 60-percent of adults.

Who gets varicose veins?

While most common in women, men can get varicose veins too. Other risk factors for varicose veins include:

  • Pregnancy – particularly repeated pregnancies increase risk
  • Getting older – veins weaken over time
  • Being overweight – lower muscle mass provides less support for the veins in your legs
  • Genetics – varicose veins tend to run in the family
  • Prolonged sitting or standing – certain occupations are at higher risk
  • Blood clots – having high blood pressure also increases risk

Additionally, certain conditions that increase pressure in the abdomen — such as liver disease, fluid in the abdomen, previous groin surgery or heart failure — can also be a risk factor for varicose veins.

5 reasons to call your doctor about your varicose veins

  1. Your leg suddenly becomes swollen and painful. You might have a blood clot in a deep vein, which can be serious and may need prompt attention.
  2. The skin over a varicose vein begins to bleed. The skin over varicose veins is often thin and can bleed heavily. If this happens, elevate your leg and apply pressure directly to the vein to stop the bleeding.
  3. Your leg has a tender lump. This could be a clot or inflammation in a vein just under the skin, which is usually not dangerous but may need treatment.
  4. You develop an open sore (ulcer). Especially if it becomes tender and swollen. You may have an infection.
  5. Your varicose vein symptoms don’t improve with home treatment, or there are symptoms you are concerned about. Varicose veins are not just a cosmetic issue. If you are in serious pain or are experiencing symptoms of circulation problems (dizziness, numbness, tingling or stinging in the limbs) call your doctor immediately.

Looking for varicose vein care?

Check out these HealthPartners or Park Nicollet locations near you.