Varicose veins

Varicose veins

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Credit: DR P. MARAZZI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

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Caption: Varicose veins. Enlarged superficial veins seen on a 22-year-old woman's left leg below the knee. The condition is one of distended, lengthened and tortuous veins, most commonly affecting the legs of elderly women. The cause is the weakening of valves in these veins causing abnormal blood flow; valves normally prevent blood from draining back down the leg under the force of gravity. Contributing factors include obesity, hormonal changes at pregnancy and menopause, and standing for long periods of time. Varicose veins may also be an inherited condition. Treatment is with elastic support stockings, regular walking and sitting with feet up. In severe cases surgery may be required.

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