Varicose veins are bulging veins that protrude through the skin, and are usually located on the legs. They are blue or purple in colour and vary from being mildly noticeable to extremely obvious.
They develop when there is a restriction of blood flow back to the heart. To counteract the restriction, the veins dilate to accommodate the extra blood that is building up, causing them to swell and become varicose.
Pregnancy is known to cause or exacerbate various veins due to the pressure that the baby, placenta and fluid place on the woman's body. All of this increased pressure means that the blood in the woman's leg has a harder task to travel back up the body, which causes the vein to dilate and become varicose.
They are very common and affect around one in three women. They are not caused by pregnancy alone as they are known to be hereditary, and are also more likely to happen if an individual is overweight.
As well as being unsightly, varicose veins can cause some discomfort, including pain in the vein itself, itchy skin over the affected area, heavy and tired legs, and swollen feet and ankles.
Unfortunately, unless the varicose veins are severe, there are not many treatments available. Therefore, prevention is better than cure and simple measures include sitting without crossing the legs; taking daily exercise such as swimming, walking or yoga to improve circulation; and massaging the area to keep the veins stimulated and functioning well.