Varicose veins are enlarged sometimes twisted veins on the surface of the skin. They are found most commonly in the lower legs, ankles and feet. Varicose veins usually are not serious by themselves, but they often lead to other more serious health problems.
Varicose veins are caused by weakening of the valves and veins in your legs. The body has over 60,000 miles of veins! Normally, one-way valves keep blood that is pushed up the leg by muscles from flowing back down the legs toward the feet. When these valves do not work as they should, blood does not get out of your legs, and the venous pressure builds up. Under normal circumstances it is normal to have low pressure in the venous system and high pressure in the arterial system. Varicose veins are a sign that the venous pressure is increasing in the lower legs. The veins then may become weak, enlarged, and twisted.
There is a hereditary component to varicose veins as it often runs in families. Aging, multiple births and occupational hazards also can contribute to increased risk of venous disease.
Being overweight or having a job where you must stand for long periods of time increases pressure on leg veins. This can lead to varicose veins.
Varicose veins look bluish, are often swollen, and twisted under the skin. Some people do not have any symptoms or recognize the symptoms due to its gradual natural history of development. Mild symptoms may include:
Heaviness, burning, aching, tiredness, or pain in your legs.
Symptoms may be worse after you stand or sit for long periods of time.
Swelling in your feet and ankles.
Itching over the vein.
More serious symptoms include:
Swelling and calf pain after you sit or stand for long periods of time.
Skin changes, such as:
Dry, thinned skin.
Open sores, or you may bleed after a minor injury.
Varicose veins are common and usually aren't a sign of a serious problem. But in some cases, varicose veins can result due to a clot or thrombus in the deeper veins. This condition is called deep vein thrombosisor DVT.
Varicose veins are easy to see, especially when you stand up. Your doctor will check your legs for tender areas, swelling, skin color changes, sores, and other signs of skin breakdown.
You might need further tests if you plan to have treatment or if you have signs of a deep vein problem.
Home treatment may be all you need to ease your symptoms and keep the varicose veins from getting worse. You can: