DR P. MARAZZI / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR P. MARAZZI / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Varicose veins in an 81-year-old woman's leg. Varicose veins are veins that have become distended, lengthened and tortuous. They form due to defective valves in the veins of the legs. As blood is circulated around the legs, these valves prevent it from sinking to the feet under gravity. If the valves stop working, blood can pool downwards, giving the external appearance seen here. The superficial veins (saphenous veins) of the legs are the most commonly affected. Treatment includes elastic support, stripping (the surgical removal, or avulsion, of the veins) or sclerotherapy, the injection of a vein with an irritant that eventually blocks it, re-routing the blood.
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