Varicose Veins

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins. They can happen
anywhere in the body. But they are more common in the legs.

Varicose veins are not considered a serious health problem. But
they can be uncomfortable and can lead to more serious problems. And because they
may be very noticeable, they may cause people to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.

Spider veins, a milder type of varicose veins, are smaller than
varicose veins and often look like a sunburst or “spider web.” They are red or blue
in color and are often found on the face and legs, just under the skin.

What causes varicose veins?

Varicose veins are caused by increased blood pressure in the
veins. They can occur in the veins near the surface of the skin.

The blood moves towards the heart by one-way valves in the veins.
When the valves become weakened or damaged, blood can collect (pool) in the veins.
This causes the veins to become enlarged. Sitting or standing for a long time can
cause blood to pool in the leg veins. This increases the pressure in the veins. The
veins can stretch from the increased pressure. This may weaken the walls of the
veins and damage the valves.

Who is at risk for varicose veins?

You are at risk for varicose veins if you:  

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Are older in age
  • Have a family history of the condition
  • Are a woman
  • Are not physically active
  • Have had a leg injury
  • Are pregnant
  • Smoke
  • Use birth control pills (oral contraceptives) or hormone
    replacement

What are the symptoms of varicose veins?

The most common symptoms of varicose veins are:

  • Color changes in the skin
  • Sores on the legs (leg ulcers)
  • Rash
  • Sensations in the legs, such as a heavy feeling, burning, or
    aching

Over time, severe varicose veins may lead to long-term mild
swelling. That can result in more serious skin and tissue problems. These include
ulcers and nonhealing sores.

The symptoms of varicose veins may look like other health
problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How are varicose veins diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your health history and do
a physical exam. You may also need a duplex ultrasound. This test is a type of
ultrasound that checks blood flow and the structure of the leg veins. Duplex means 2
kinds of ultrasound are used.