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Varicose Veins

Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Questions & Related Topics

Key Points

  • Varicose veins are a common condition characterized by dark blue or purple, twisted, bulging veins, often in the lower legs, and can cause a range of symptoms from aching to swelling.
  • The condition is often confused with spider veins, which are smaller and typically appear on the legs or face.
  • There are seven potential causes of varicose veins, including malfunctioning valves, age, hormones, pregnancy, obesity, family history, and lack of movement.
  • Prevention tips include regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutritious diet, elevating your legs, and avoiding tight clothing.
  • Treatment options vary from at-home remedies and compression stockings to medical procedures like sclerotherapy, laser treatment, and surgery.

Possible Symptoms for Varicose Veins

Varicose veins can develop in any part of your body, but they're most common in the feet and lower legs. Symptoms may include:[1]

  • Dark blue or purple veins
  • Twisted, bulging, or enlarged veins

Many varicose veins cause no symptoms, but others can cause painful symptoms. If you have varicose veins in your legs, you may notice:[1]

  • A heavy or aching sensation
  • Burning, itching, or throbbing
  • Muscle cramps
  • Swelling in the lower legs
  • Pain worsenening after long periods of sitting or standing

Varicose veins are often confused with spider veins. The two may look similar, but spider veins are usually much smaller. Spider veins often appear on the legs or face and may have a reddish appearance. Varicose veins are generally larger and are often dark blue or purple.[1]

Top 7 Varicose Veins Causes

1. Malfunctioning valves

The veins in your body are equipped with special valves that pump blood back to your heart. Sometimes, these valves don't work as well as they should. If your valves are not working correctly, blood may pool in your lower legs. Over time, backed-up blood flow can cause the veins to become swollen or distended.[1]

2. Age

As you age, the valves in your veins are more likely to develop problems. Young people are unlikely to develop varicose veins, but the condition is common in people over 50. One study estimated that 50% of adults have varicose veins.[2]

3. Hormones

Women are far more likely than men to develop varicose veins. Doctors are not sure why, although female hormones may relax your veins and make it harder for muscles to contract. Women who take hormone medications may be at especially high risk for varicose veins.[1]

4. Pregnancy

Pregnancy causes many hormonal changes in your body, and pregnant women also experience an increase in blood volume.[1] These factors might increase your chances of developing varicose veins.

5. Obesity

Excess body weight can also increase blood volume and put added pressure on your veins.[3] If you are significantly overweight, your circulatory system might have trouble pumping blood throughout your body. Reduced blood flow can lead to a variety of health problems, including varicose veins.

6. Family history

Genetic factors can play a role in how well your circulatory system works. If many people in your family have varicose veins, you may develop them too.[1]

7. Lack of movement

Regular movement helps circulate blood throughout your body. If your job requires long periods of sitting or standing, you may be at high risk for varicose veins.[1]

5 Ways to Prevent Varicose Veins

1. Get moving

Daily activity helps promote healthy circulation.[1] With your doctor's permission, take regular walks or sign up for an exercise program. Even brief periods of physical activity can help improve blood flow.

2. Shed excess pounds

Losing weight can relieve pressure on your circulatory system.[1][3] Maintaining a healthy weight may help reduce your risk of varicose veins over time. If you're overweight, ask your doctor to help you develop a safe weight-loss plan.

3. Stick to a healthy diet

Eating nutritious foods can help you drop extra pounds. A healthy diet can also help promote good circulation. Eating foods that are high in fiber and low in salt may prevent varicose veins.[1]

4. Elevate your legs

If you often sit for long periods, it may help to elevate your legs on a chair or table. Raising your legs can encourage healthy blood flow.[1]

5. Avoid tight clothing or footwear

Tight pants, hosiery, or shoes can restrict blood flow. If you're at risk for varicose veins, it's best to wear loose-fitted slacks or skirts.[1] Choose comfortable footwear and avoid shoes that crowd your feet.

Possible Varicose Veins Treatment Options

1. At-home treatments

If your varicose veins are mild, your doctor may suggest at-home treatments, like elevating your legs or adjusting your diet. Your doctor may also recommend topical creams to soothe inflamed skin and relieve swelling.[4]

2. Compression stockings

In some cases, your doctor may suggest using compression stockings. Compression stockings are tight garments worn on your lower legs. While these garments can relieve discomfort, they may not prevent varicose veins. Instead, they are often used to ease pain caused by existing varicose veins.[4]

3. Sclerotherapy

During sclerotherapy, your doctor injects your veins with a small amount of a special solution that scars your veins and closes them off. The affected veins then shrink and disappear.[4] Sclerotherapy can often be performed right in your doctor's office.

4. Laser treatment

Laser treatments use targeted pulses of light to close off affected veins. Over time, these veins shrink and disappear.[4] Laser therapy doesn't involve any needles or surgery, but you may need to seek out a vascular expert to have it done.

5. Surgery

If you have stubborn varicose veins that haven't responded to other treatments, your doctor may recommend surgery. Your surgeon may be able to remove one or more of the deep veins in your legs.[4] This type of surgery is generally offered as an outpatient procedure in a vascular clinic or hospital.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Varicose Veins Treatment:

  • When did you first notice your varicose veins?
  • Are your veins itchy, achy, or painful?
  • Do your varicose veins interfere with your daily activities?
  • Are you currently pregnant or taking hormone medications?
  • Do you have a history of cardiovascular problems?
  • Does anyone else in your family have varicose veins?
  • Does your job require a lot of sitting or standing?

Varicose Veins May Also Be Known as:

  • Varicoses
  • Varicosities


Frequently asked questions

  • What are varicose veins?

    Varicose veins are a condition where veins, usually in the lower legs, become dark blue or purple, twisted, and bulging.
  • How are varicose veins different from spider veins?

    Spider veins are smaller than varicose veins and can appear on the legs or face. They are often less severe than varicose veins.
  • What causes varicose veins?

    Varicose veins can be caused by several factors including malfunctioning valves, age, hormones, pregnancy, obesity, family history, and lack of movement.
  • What can I do to prevent varicose veins?

    Prevention methods include regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutritious diet, elevating your legs, and avoiding tight clothing.
  • What are the treatment options for varicose veins?

    Treatment options range from at-home remedies and compression stockings to medical procedures like sclerotherapy, laser treatment, and surgery.
  • What symptoms can varicose veins cause?

    Symptoms can range from a heavy or aching sensation to burning, itching, throbbing, muscle cramps, and swelling.
  • Are varicose veins hereditary?

    Yes, family history can be one of the factors contributing to the development of varicose veins.
  • Can pregnancy cause varicose veins?

    Yes, pregnancy is one of the potential causes of varicose veins due to hormonal changes and increased blood volume.

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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