Healthy veins have one-way valves to ensure blood flows in one direction, towards the heart. When valves fail or leak, the blood flows backwards causing it to pool in the veins. The increased pressure from the pooling stretches the vein, causing enlarged, twisted blood vessels. The resulting lumpy, rope-like veins are varicose veins.
While some varicose veins only pose a cosmetic problem, some cases may cause substantial discomfort and health complications. Left untreated, varicose veins can lead to swelling, increased pain, skin discoloration and ulcerations of the lower legs. These ulcerations are difficult to treat and can become easily infected and painful. Many of these symptoms and complications can be prevented by early treatment of varicose veins.