Signs you may have with varicose veins may be visible or subtle, and include:
- Leg pain or fatigue
- Leg veins that are visibly dark purple or blue in color
- Veins that appear twisted and bulging, often like cords on your legs
- An achy or heavy feeling in your legs
- Burning, throbbing, or itching of the lower legs
- Worsened pain after sitting or standing for a long time
- Leg swelling
- Lower leg skin discoloration
- Hardening of the vein
- Skin ulcers
In healthy veins, blood collects in the small surface veins and eventually passes through one-way valves into deeper veins. When one or more of these valves fail to function correctly, some blood flows in the wrong direction. This blood tends to overfill and enlarge the veins just under the skin, making them unable to effectively transport blood. These bulging, rope-like veins are called varicose veins.
Varicose veins affect approximately one-third of the U.S. population. Heredity is the number one cause of varicose and spider veins. Other predisposing factors include occupations involving prolonged sitting or standing, obesity, trauma, and hormonal factors.
Women are more likely to suffer from varicose veins, especially because of pregnancy. Pregnancy causes an increase in hormone levels and blood volume, which in turn causes veins to enlarge. In addition, an enlarged uterus causes increased pressure on the leg veins. Varicose veins due to pregnancy may improve several months after delivery, but not completely go away.
If left untreated, varicose veins can lead to chronic leg swelling, skin thickening and discoloration, and even ulcers that won’t heal until the veins are treated.
Treatment options include: