What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are veins that have become swollen with blood, leading to a tangled appearance and pain. The swelling in varicose veins arises from improper venous function, leading to inappropriate blood collection. Generally, varicose veins occur in the legs, but they can occur in other regions of the body as well.

Blood Vessel Problems Spotlight

Varicose veins arise from blood pooling, usually in the legs. Blood pooling can occur as a result of congenitally malformed venous valves or other conditions, such as pregnancy or thrombophlebitis (vein swelling due to a blood clot). Extended periods spent standing may increase your risk of developing varicose veins. Symptoms of varicose veins include visible, raised, swollen or malformed “tangles” of veins, leg pain, and swelling, and in severe cases, ulcers of the legs.

In most cases, varicose veins can be treated by avoiding excessive standing, sleeping with your legs elevated, or wearing support hose. In more severe cases, nonsurgical intervention such as laser ablation may be performed. If varicose veins are causing extreme pain or are at risk of rupturing, surgical vein stripping may be effective. Varicose veins may worsen with time if appropriate medical or home treatment is not obtained.

While complications are rare, varicose veins can be a serious condition. Seek prompt medical care if you, or someone you are with, experience severe leg pain, develop ulcers of the legs or ankles, or if varicose veins have become warm or tender to the touch. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated or performing self-treatment for varicose veins and your symptoms do not improve.


What are the symptoms of varicose veins?

Symptoms of varicose veins include tangled, painful, or raised veins in the legs, buttocks, or other regions of the body. In mild cases, varicose veins can be treated at home. In more severe cases, swelling of the legs, excessive pain, or ulcers of the legs or ankles may occur, and you should obtain prompt medical treatment.... Read more about varicose veinssymptoms


What causes varicose veins?

Varicose veins result from improper venous function, leading to blood pooling in the veins. In general, varicose veins can be caused by valve malformations, pregnancy, and thrombophlebitis, which is vein swelling due to a blood clot. Extended periods of time standing on your feet without motion can also lead to varicose veins. Varicose veins that are due to valve defects which are present from birth or have no known cause are called primary varicose veins, while those that develop because of another condition are considered secondary varicose veins.... Read more about varicose veinscauses


How are varicose veins treated?

For most cases of varicose veins, noninvasive treatment can be performed to improve the appearance and feeling of the legs. Typical treatments include keeping your legs elevated when sleeping and wearing support hose. If you are experiencing serious leg discomfort from varicose veins, nonsurgical procedures such as scleropathy, radiofrequency treatment, and laser treatment can be performed. For severe cases, vein-stripping surgery may be used to entirely remove varicose veins. In most cases, varicose veins worsen over time unless you obtain medical care or perform self-treatment.... Read more about varicose veinstreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation