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Senior Correspondent

Q. My mother had varicose veins in her legs and now I’m getting them. She put up with them. I don’t want to. So how do I get rid of them?

Varicose veins are twisted and enlarged veins that bulge in legs, but they can appear in other places. Varicose veins are more common in legs because veins from the groin to the ankles endure the most pressure of any veins in the body.

Varicose veins affect half of people over the age 50. Women get varicose veins more often than men.

Spider veins, which are named for the spider webs they resemble, are like varicose veins, but they’re smaller. Hemorrhoids are anal varicose veins.

Aging is a major cause of varicose veins. As we get older, our veins stretch and the valves in them weaken. These valves keep the blood flowing toward the heart. If the valves malfunction, blood backs up in the veins and engorges them.

Varicose veins are blue because the blood in them needs oxygen, which it gets when it returns to the heart and is pumped through the lungs.

These bulging veins can be painful, but, for many, they are just ugly nuisances. There are many options available to treat them. The first step in dealing with varicose veins is to get them examined by your doctor and get personal advice about how to deal with your condition.

Before trying a variety of procedures, you can wear compression stockings that squeeze the legs and help the veins move blood. They are available at most pharmacies. If these don’t work, your doctor may recommend one of the following:

* Lasers can make varicose and spider veins vanish.

* Injections can close the veins and make them fade away. This is called “sclerotherapy.”

* Heat is used to destroy varicose veins. A catheter is inserted in a large varicose vein. The tip of the catheter is heated and then withdrawn.

* Catheters can also be used with radiofrequency or lasers to close veins.

* The veins can be removed with incisions. This is called “vein stripping.”

* Small varicose veins can be taken out with little punctures of the skin. Surgical hooks remove the veins. This is called “ambulatory phlebectomy.”

* In advanced cases of varicose veins, “endoscopic vein surgery” may be used. In this procedure, the surgeon inserts a tiny video camera to help in the removal of the veins with incisions.

Varicose veins can’t be prevented, but there are steps you can take to reduce the chances of getting them. Here are some pointers:

* Walking improves the circulation in your legs.

* Losing weight reduces pressure on veins.

* Low-heel shoes and flats exercise your calves.

* Tight clothes restrict circulation.

* Lying with your legs up improves circulation.

* Sitting, especially with crossed legs, or standing for a long time cuts down on circulation.

* Eating foods low in salt and high in fiber is beneficial. Salt leads to water retention and swelling. Not consuming enough fiber leads to constipation, which can contribute to varicose veins.

If you would like to read more columns, you can order a copy of “How to be a Healthy Geezer” at www.healthygeezer.com.

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