Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins that can appear anywhere on your body. These are usually found on the legs. Veins bring blood from various parts of the body back to the heart. In our legs, these blood vessels need to work against gravity to do this, with the help of muscle contractions and valves. When this system falters due to various factors, it results in varicose veins.

Am I at risk of developing varicose veins?

The risks of developing varicose veins depend on factors like:

* Age: Aging causes wearing out of the valves in your veins, and thus varicose veins.
* Pregnancy: Increasing amount of blood, along with pressure effect of the pregnant uterus on the leg veins, lead to development of varicose veins.
* Hormones: Female hormones relax vessel walls, and thus varicose veins are more likely during pregnancy, menopause, premenstruation and in women on hormone replacement therapy.
* Obesity: Excess weight can also impede flow in the veins, increasing your risk.
* Standing and sitting for long periods: Staying in the same position, especially if your work demands so, also puts you at greater risk of developing varicose veins.
* Family history: If other members in your family had varicose veins, you are also more likely to get them over time.

 Are varicose veins hazardous?

Most people have no particular symptoms, except cosmetic concerns. However, in some cases varicose veins can progress into certain complications, like:
* Phlebitis: Inflammation of veins can occur, with subsequent development of clots. Although not life-threatening, this still requires treatment, and may prove painful.
* Deep Vein Thrombosis: Some people can develop clots in deeper leg veins. This can present as abrupt swelling and pain in the affected leg, which requires urgent medical care. This is because the clot may travel to your lung and prove fatal.
* Bleeding: These veins may tend to bleed, which can be stopped with some pressure. However, it is always best to follow up with a doctor following such an episode.
* Ulcers: Extremely painful wounds may form especially near the ankles.
* Skin changes: Varicose veins can progress to develop various kinds of skin changes over the affected veins, which can cause a lot of pain and embarrassment.

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