Varicose Veins are larger, abnormal veins close to the skin surface. They often look like large ropes or clusters of grapes under the skin. Veins become enlarged with pools of blood when they fail to circulate blood properly. These veins are said to have incompetent valves. These visible, bulging veins can usually be traced from the upper inside of the thigh, sometimes branching extensively into the calves, ankles, and even into the foot. They are usually greater than 3mm in diameter and often greater than 10 mm.
Varicose veins may be regarded as a cosmetic nuisance for some, but for others, they are painful. For some patients, potential serious health problems may be present or may develop as a result. If you have leg pains that consist of any of the following: heaviness, throbbing, resting pain, resting cramps, ‘restless legs’, tiredness, aching, burning sensation, swelling (especially around the ankle). Then you may have venous insufficiency, which is the cause of varicose veins.
Veins are intended to have one-way valves so blood can return uphill to the heart. Venous insufficiency develops when the valves break down (become incompetent) and the pressure from gravity distends and stretches vein branches (hydrostatic pressure). The most common causes are genetics and pregnancy. It is also seen frequently in body builders.
Without treatment, varicose vein disease always progresses. One of the results of untreated venous insufficiency is chronically swollen legs with brown to purple discoloration. The unhealthy skin may eventually break down and form ulcers around the ankle.