What are varicose veins?

A varicose vein is a vein that no longer returns blood to the heart the way it should. The vein does not work properly and is said to be incompetent.

Veins are conduits for the circulation of blood on its way back to the heart. Vein walls are made up of muscle fibres and veins contain small valves that prevent blood from flowing backward as a result of gravity.

When vein walls are weak, veins become dilated. The valves can no longer function properly and blood no longer returns to the heart. This causes varicose veins to develop.

Varicose veins are a chronic, progressive condition. Without treatment they continue to worsen, which can cause complications.