Harvard Women's Health Watch

Are your leg veins ready for summer?

Treating enlarged leg veins can improve their appearance and reduce the risk of aching, swelling, and more serious problems.

Beach weather may be months away, but if bulging and discolored leg veins make you dread wearing a bathing suit or shorts, winter may be a good time to seek medical help. It's not just a cosmetic consideration: Treating enlarged leg veins can also relieve discomfort and prevent medical complications. A range of nonsurgical and minimally invasive treatments is now available, but to see the full benefits usually takes several weeks or months.

Enlarged leg veins

Veins are responsible for carrying oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart, where it is passed on to the lungs to take up oxygen before being distributed to the rest of the body. The leg veins have the toughest job because they must propel blood a long distance against gravity and the pressure of body weight. To help, they have one-way valves that prevent the blood from flowing backward. When these valves malfunction, blood can leak back down, collect, and swell the veins.

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