Varicose veins are veins that have become enlarged and twisted, they usually occur on the legs. Veins have valves to prevent blood from flowing backwards, the leg muscles pump the veins to return blood to the heart when veins become varicose, the valves no longer work effectively, this allows blood to flow backwards and the veins become enlarged even more.
Varicose veins are most common in the superficial veins of the legs, which are subject to high pressure when standing. Besides being a cosmetic problem, varicose veins can be painful, especially when standing. Severe long-standing varicose veins can lead to leg swelling, venous ezcema, skin thickening and ulceration.
The wearing of graduated compression socks/stockings with variable pressure gradients (15-20mmHg to 20-30mmHg)) has been shown to correct the swelling, nutritional exchange, and improve the micro circulation in legs affected by varicose veins. They also often provide relief from the discomfort associated with this disease. Caution should be exercised in their use in patients with concurrent arterial disease. (Curri SB et al. (1989) "Changes of cutaneous microcirculation from elasto-compression in chronic venous insufficiency". In Davy A and Stemmer R (eds.) Phlebology '89, Montrouge, France, 'John Libbey Eurotext.)