Varicose veins and venous insufficiency

Definition

Varicose veins are swollen, twisted, and enlarged veins that you can see under the skin. Often they are red or blue in color. They usually appear in the legs, but can occur in other parts of the body.

Alternative Names

Varicosity; Varicosis

Causes

Normally, one-way valves in your leg veins keep blood moving up toward the heart. When the valves do not work properly, blood backs up into the vein. The vein swells from the blood that collects there, which causes varicose veins. Smaller varicose veins you that can see on the surface of skin are called spider veins.

Varicose veins are common, and affect more women than men. They usually don't cause problems for most people. However, in some people, they can lead to serious conditions, such as leg swelling and pain, blood clots, and skin changes.

Risk factors include:

 

Symptoms

Severe symptoms include:

Exams and Tests

Your doctor will examine your legs to look for swelling, changes in skin color,or sores. Your doctor also may:

Treatment

Your doctor may suggest that you take the following self-care steps to help manage varicose veins:

If your condition is severe, your doctor may recommend the following treatments:

Outlook (Prognosis)

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.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:

References

Freischlag JA, Heller JA. Venous disease. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 65.

Goldman MP, Guex JJ, Weiss RA. Sclerotherapy: Treatment of Varicose and Telangiectatic Leg Veins. 5th ed. Phildelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Saunders; 2011.

Nijsten T, van den Bos RR, Goldman MP, et al. Minimally invasive techniques in the treatment of saphenous varicose veins. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2009;60:110-119.


Review Date: 5/21/2013
Reviewed By: Diane M. Horowitz, MD, North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System, Great Neck, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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