In medicine (gastroenterology), esophageal varices are extremely dilated sub-mucosal veins in the esophagus. They are most often a consequence of portal hypertension, such as may be seen with cirrhosis; patients with esophageal varices have a strong tendency to develop bleeding.
Ideally, patients with known varices should receive treatment to reduce their risk of bleeding. The non-selective β-blockers (e.g., propranolol, timolol or nadolol) and nitrates have been evaluated for secondary prophylaxis. The effectiveness of this treatment has been shown by a number of different studies. Unfortunately, non-selective β-blockers do not prevent the formation of esophageal varices.