The 411 on Varicose Veins

Posted by Shannon on Jul 9th 2024

July 10, 2024

Facts on Varicose Veins

Worried about varicose veins? Get the 411 on varicose veins from causes and symptoms to prevention and treatment.

Facts on Varicose Veins

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins, also known as varicosities, are veins that are large or twisted. They can occur anywhere in the body but are most commonly found in the legs. Although varicose veins are not considered a serious medical condition, they can lead to more serious issues over time. They can also cause discomfort or lead to embarrassment due to their noticeability.

Are spider veins another name for varicose veins? Sort of. Spider veins are a smaller and milder version of varicose veins.

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

There are many symptoms that will cue you that you might be experiencing varicose veins, and many of them go hand in hand.

    • Heavy, aching, or burning feeling in the legs
    • Color changes on the skin, especially around the veins
    • Rashes or sores on the legs
    • Swelling in the legs
    • Itchiness around the veins
    • Bulging, blue or purple veins

You may notice that some of these symptoms when you sit or stand for long periods of time but improve when you lie down or put your feet up.

Causes of Varicose Veins

Sitting or standing for long periods will cause blood to pool in the veins, increasing pressure within them. The increased pressure causes veins to stretch, weakening the vein walls and damaging the one-way valves that move the blood toward the heart. If the valves become weakened or damaged, blood begins to pool in the veins, causing the veins to become enlarged and twisted. The result is varicose veins.

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors that make a person more susceptible to having varicose veins.

    • Being overweight
    • Advanced age
    • Female
    • Inactivity
    • Leg injuries
    • Pregnancy
    • Smoking
    • Taking oral contraceptives or hormone replacement
    • Genetics
Risk Factors

Treatments for Varicose Veins

If you think you have varicose veins, you should speak to your healthcare provider. Early treatment can prevent varicose veins from getting worse or leading to complications like bleeding or ulcers.

Your physician may advise a combination of treatments depending on the seriousness of your condition.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes

The first thing you need to do regardless of the seriousness of your condition is to change your lifestyle to avoid the condition getting any worse. If you are not already, begin a healthy eating plan and exercise routine. Begin a smoking cessation program, as smoking damages veins. If possible, avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time. Leave the high heels in the closet.


Your physician may also recommend a surgical procedure to treat varicose veins.

Sclerotherapy is the most common surgical procedure. This involves injecting a chemical solution into the varicose vein. This causes the vein walls to stick together, and seal shut, which stops the blood flow. Within a few weeks the vein fades.

Ablation is another form of treatment using lasers or radiofrequency. A small fiber is inserted into the vein and then heat is delivered through the laser to destroy the varicose vein wall.

Vein stripping is a surgical procedure that removes the damaged part of the vein.


Your physician may recommend compression therapy to treat your varicose veins, or possibly as a follow-up to one of the surgical treatments. True gradient compression socks and stockings contain elastic pressure that is greatest at the ankle and gradually decreases further up the stocking. True gradient compression relieves swelling and encourages blood to flow back toward the heart, relieving the pressure on the vein walls.


If you are at high risk of developing varicose veins, but do not yet experience them, there are several things that you can do to lower your risk factors.

    • Maintain a healthy weight
    • Exercise regularly
    • Elevate your feet when sitting
    • Avoid crossing your legs while sitting
    • Wear compression socks or hosiery

*Source: National Institute of Health, Johns Hopkins Medicine

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