Varicose veins are a different type of poor circulation – a poor return of blood to the heart. Your feet are supplied with blood by the arteries that carry blood down to them. Veins carry blood from the feet back to the heart. When you stand up, gravity tends to pull blood down toward your feet. Leg veins have valves in them to prevent this from happening. However, if the valves are damaged or too far apart, they do not close properly. This causes varicose veins, which tend to get very full and widen with blood.
Varicose veins may look like blue snakes or rivers under the skin. Some of the fluid in the blood leaks out through very small veins and causes swelling. This pooling of blood can cause ulcers on the legs, but these are different from diabetic foot ulcers. Anyone can have varicose veins and leg ulcers.
Wearing support hose and exercising are the two main treatments for varicose veins. Support hose squeeze your legs and prevent blood from pooling in the veins. Exercise also helps keep blood from pooling. When your leg muscles contract, they squeeze nearby veins and help pump blood back to the heart. Surgery is reserved for very severe cases of varicose veins.