DEAR DOCTOR K: I have varicose veins. For a while, they were just unsightly. But recently, my leg has started to ache. What does treatment involve?
DEAR READER: Varicose veins occur when veins that lie just below the skin's surface become swollen with too much blood. They usually form in the legs and appear blue, swollen, kinked or twisted. Veins return blood back to the heart. When you use the leg muscles to walk or run, they also help pump blood up toward your heart. When blood moves upward toward the heart, gravity is pulling the blood downward away from your heart. (That's not true, of course, if you're lying flat, or standing on your head.) To offset the pull of gravity, our veins have multiple little valves inside of them. These valves open when blood is pushed up toward the heart. But they close when blood is pulled downward by gravity, stopping the downward flow.