The Human Body

Varicose Vein

Varicose Vein, dilated (enlarged) and often twisted vein just below the skin that develops when the valves in the vein no longer function properly or when blood volume in the vein increases. Varicose veins develop most commonly in the legs, but also occur in the anus (hemorrhoids), esophagus, and testes in males (varicocele).

Varicose veins in the legs are characterized by a purplish-blue color. These veins may become prominent and readily visible. Varicose veins may be painful and cause swelling of the ankles and ulcerations on the skin of the legs. Venous thromboses (blood clots) may develop within varicose veins. If these blood clots break off from the vein and enter the circulatory system, they may cause a dangerous obstruction elsewhere, as in the smaller arteries of the lungs. Simple superficial varicose leg veins are treated by applying pressure all along their length with an elastic stocking. Larger varicose veins may be removed by a physician with a chemical solution or surgery.

Dilation and inflammation of the veins in the membranes of the anus or rectum produce hemorrhoids, also called piles. Mild hemorrhoids may only itch, but advanced cases are painful and cause bleeding. Topical ointments may provide temporary relief from discomfort. Doctors recommend a diet rich in high fiber foods to improve regularity of bowel movements. The most serious cases require surgical removal of the dilated veins.