Varicose (vara-KOSE) veins are swollen, bluish (BLUE-ish) veins that occur primarily in the lower legs. They're caused by a weakness in the walls and valves of the veins which allow blood that's being returned to the heart to flow back into the veins. Women are most often affected, especially during pregnancy or if there's a family history of the condition. Varicose veins can cause tiredness, aching, burning, and itching in the legs. Prolonged sitting or standing can aggravate them and symptoms tend to worsen during menstruation. In most cases, varicose veins are a minor aggravation, but there can be some serious complications, such as severe bleeding, ulcers, and blood clots. There are some things that may help you cope with this condition. Try to stay off your feet as much as possible and sit with your legs raised. Your discomfort may also be eased by wearing support hose. There are some cases in which varicose vein removal may be desired. Even when there are no symptoms, such as excessive swelling, some people may be bothered by the cosmetic appearance of the bulging, discolored veins and want them removed. Pain and development of chronic ulcers also may be an indication for removal. In these cases, the veins may be removed surgically or injected with a hardening agent and wrapped firmly for a few days until the inflamation subsides. For more information about varicose veins, talk with your health care provider.