Varicose veins

Definition

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.

Alternative Names

Varicosity

Causes

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.

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 worse, problems such as leg swelling and pain, blood clots, and skin changes may be present.

Risk factors include:

Symptoms

Symptoms of varicose veins include:

If flow of blood through the veins becomes worse, symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

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

Treatment

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:

If the varicose veins are larger, longer, or more widespread on the leg, your provider will suggest one of the following:

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 your provider if:

References

Freischlag JA, Heller JA. Venous disease. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2017:chap 64.

Iafrati MD, O'Donnell TF. Varicose veins: Surgical treatment. In: Cronenwett JL, Johnston W, eds. Rutherford's Vascular Surgery. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 57.

Kabnick LS, Sadek M. Varicose veins: endovenous ablation and sclerotherapy. In: Cronenwett JL, Johnston KW, eds. Rutherford's Vascular Surgery. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 58.


Review Date: 6/6/2016
Reviewed By: Deepak Sudheendra, MD, RPVI, Assistant Professor of Interventional Radiology & Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, with an expertise in Vascular Interventional Radiology & Surgical Critical Care, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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