Harvard Heart Letter

Get a leg up on varicose veins

Leaky leg veins can cause painful skin changes. But safe, effective treatments can fix this common problem.

Varicose veins—those dark blue or purple leg veins that bulge just beneath the skin's surface—leave many sufferers feeling self-conscious. But beyond the cosmetic considerations, pooling of excess blood in the lower extremities can cause painful leg swelling and skin ulcers.

Varicose veins, which affect about 25% of adults, are generally not life-threatening, but the condition can put a damper on your quality of life. "It's hard to get around and carry on with your life once you have a swollen and ulcerated leg," says Dr. Marie Gerhard-Herman, a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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