Varicose veins are swollen, twisted, and enlarged veins that you can see under the skin. They are often red or blue in color. They most often appear in the legs, but can occur in other parts of the body.
Normally, one-way valves in your leg veins keep blood moving up toward the heart. When the valves do not work properly, they allow blood to back up into the vein. The vein swells from the blood that collects there, which causes varicose veins over time.
Varicose veins are common, and affect more women than men. They do not cause problems for most people. However, if the flow of blood through veins becomes poor enough, problems such as leg swelling and pain, blood clots, and skin changes may be present.
Risk factors include:
Symptoms of varicose veins include:
If flow of blood through the veins becomes poor enough, symptoms may include:
Your health care provider will examine your legs to look for swelling, changes in skin color, or sores. Your provider also may:
Your provider may suggest that you take the following self-care steps to help manage varicose veins:
If only a small number of varicose veins are present, the following procedures may be used:
Varicose veins tend to get worse over time. Taking self-care steps can help relieve achiness and pain, keep varicose veins from getting worse, and prevent more serious problems.
Contact your provider if:
Iafrati MD. Varicose veins: surgical treatment. In: Sidawy AN, Perler BA, eds. Rutherford's Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 154.
Pascarella L, Marston W. Venous disease. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 65.
Sadek M, Kabnick LS. Varicose veins: endovenous ablation and sclerotherapy. In: Sidawy AN, Perler BA, eds. Rutherford's Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 155.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 5/10/2022
Reviewed By: Deepak Sudheendra, MD, MHCI, RPVI, FSIR, Founder and CEO, 360 Vascular Institute, with an expertise in Vascular Interventional Radiology & Surgical Critical Care, Columbus, OH. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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