When blood vessels become abnormally swollen and abnormally enlarged they are referred to as varicose veins. They appear on the calves, lower thighs and feet of mostly women aged between 30 and 60 years of age, as large twisted and raised veins.
Although varicose veins can appear on any part of the body, the legs are the most common place due to the effects of gravity. Blood flows forwards and backwards through the veins. This is an act that aims to defy gravity. The body was designed to defy gravity through the leaflet valves that control backward blood flow in the veins. These leaflet valves are expected to stay shut once the blood has passed through to go back to the top of the body where the heart is situated. However, the leaflet valves often become loose with age and strain and can no longer control the blood flow. Instead of all the blood flowing upwards to the heart, the loose valve allows the blood to flow backwards into that particular part of the vein. With time, blood begins to pool in the veins and causes them to also stretch. The veins become lumpy and swollen.
Varicose veins are often unsightly and can cause some pain and discomfort through clots or skin ulcers. Varicose veins can be removed trough surgery or therapy that makes them smaller. Staying active and avoiding prolonged standing reduces the risk of developing varicose veins. Some pregnant also get varicose veins due too pressure in the abdomen.