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Home > Fitness & Health > Health Library > Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins near the surface of the skin. They are most common in the legs and ankles. Varicose veins usually aren't serious. In rare cases, they may be a sign of a more serious problem that may need treatment, such as deep vein thrombosis.
Varicose veins are caused by weakened valves and veins in your legs. Normally, one-way valves in your veins keep blood flowing from your legs up toward your heart. When these valves don't work as they should, blood collects in your legs, and pressure builds up. The veins become weak, large, and twisted.
Varicose veins look dark blue, swollen, and twisted under the skin. They may not cause any symptoms. 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.
To diagnose varicose veins, your doctor will look at your legs and feet. The doctor will check your legs for tender areas, swelling, skin color changes, sores, and other signs of skin breakdown. You might need 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. Wear compression stockings. Prop up (elevate) your legs. Avoid long periods of sitting or standing. And get plenty of exercise. There are procedures to treat varicose veins if home treatment doesn't help.
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Varicose veins often run in families. You may be born with defective valves or weak walls in your veins, or you may develop them later in life.
Varicose veins are more common in women than in men. And they happen more often as people get older.
Varicose veins often form during pregnancy. They might become less prominent after pregnancy and may disappear completely.
Factors that increase your risk of developing varicose veins include:
Varicose veins may be prevented to some extent. Here are a few things you can try.
They improve circulation and are a mainstay of treatment for varicose veins that are causing symptoms.
Walk, bicycle, or swim to improve blood flow in your legs.
Varicose veins look dark blue, swollen, and twisted under the skin. They may not cause any symptoms. Mild symptoms may include:
Symptoms may get worse a few days before and during a woman's menstrual period.
More serious symptoms include:
Varicose veins usually don't cause problems. There are things you can do at home to help with symptoms and keep varicose veins from getting worse. But if the way your veins look bothers you, there are procedures that may help.
Most varicose veins aren't a serious medical problem, but they sometimes can lead to complications.
Complications can include:
Varicose veins most often are a result of problems in the superficial veins just under the skin. But they can happen along with problems or disease in the deep veins and perforating veins, which connect the deep and the superficial veins. Complications are much more common when varicose veins are caused by or linked with these deeper veins.
Call your doctor if you have varicose veins and:
Varicose veins are common and generally aren't a serious health problem. With a doctor keeping an eye on the condition, most people can manage varicose veins with home treatment. This includes exercise, wearing compression stockings, and propping up the legs.
Varicose veins are most often diagnosed based on how they look. No special tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis.
Your doctor will:
You might need tests if you plan to have treatment or if you have signs of a deep vein problem. Duplex Doppler ultrasound is the most commonly used test. It can help your doctor study blood flow in your leg veins.
The goals of treatment for varicose veins are to reduce symptoms and prevent complications. For some, the goal may be related to how the veins look. Home treatment is usually the first approach.
Home treatment may be all you need to ease your symptoms and keep the varicose veins from getting worse. You can:
If home treatment doesn't help, there are procedures that can treat varicose veins. These include:
Laser energy is used to scar and destroy varicose veins. This is called ablation.
This treatment is a type of surgery. Cuts (incisions) are made over the varicose vein, and the vein is tied off (ligated) and removed (stripped). This option may be used if other treatments haven't worked or aren't likely to work, and you don't like the way your veins look or your symptoms bother you.
Several tiny cuts are made in the skin through which the varicose vein is removed. This is also called stab avulsion.
Radiofrequency energy is used inside a vein to scar it and close it off. It can be used to close off a large varicose vein in the leg.
A chemical is injected into a varicose vein to damage and scar the inside lining of the vein, causing the vein to close. This usually works best for small veins.
All of these procedures can scar or discolor the skin.
The size of your varicose veins affects your treatment options.
Self-care, or home treatment, is recommended for most people with varicose veins. Home treatment can relieve symptoms and slow down the progress of varicose veins. For many people, home treatment is the only treatment they need.
Home treatment may include the following.
Exercise can help relieve symptoms and slow the progression of varicose veins by improving blood circulation in your legs.
High-impact exercises such as running may be uncomfortable for people with varicose veins.
Staying at a healthy weight, and losing weight if you need to, may help relieve symptoms caused by your varicose veins. Being overweight can increase the swelling and discomfort of varicose veins.
When you elevate your legs, ideally at or above heart level, it helps keep the blood from pooling in your lower legs and improves blood flow to the rest of your body.
There are simple ways to improve the blood flow in your legs and prevent or improve varicose veins:
Sitting or standing still for long periods of time puts added stress on the veins in your legs.
Compression stockings are a main treatment for varicose veins that are causing symptoms. They improve circulation and help relieve symptoms.
Superficial varicose veins just under the skin sometimes cause minor problems. Most can be treated at home.
If you bump your leg, prop up your leg and apply a cold pack for the next hour or two.
Follow your doctor's instructions. Care may include the following:
Talk to your doctor if you have questions.
Current as of:
July 6, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 6, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
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