We’ve all seen varicose veins, but should we be worried? The bulging, twisted bluish veins can form on the legs. Many people over age 60 have them. You may not like how they look, but there usually is no cause for concern.
Veins are pipes that take the blood from different parts of our body back to the heart. At intervals in our veins, valves help move the blood in one direction: toward the heart. Sometimes, the valves in our leg veins may stop working. This condition is called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). As a result, some of the blood stays in our feet and legs, especially when we are standing or sitting for a long time. The increased pressure inside the veins causes these veins to dilate over time and allows blood to leak out into the surrounding tissue.
These dilated veins underneath the skin are called varicose veins. Not everyone with chronic venous insufficiency will develop visible varicose veins. Many factors can cause varicose veins, such as family history, hormones, pregnancy, obesity and work that involves being on your feet.
In some cases, varicose veins can cause discomfort and may be a sign of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)—a blood clot in a vein deep in your leg. If you notice any unusual swelling in your leg, pain or changes in skin color, you should contact your health care professional. There are things you can do to get rid of varicose veins or keep them from getting worse. Use this condition center to learn more about CVI and varicose veins, create a list of questions to ask your health care professional and get practical tips.
Varicose veins are often thought of as a cosmetic problem, but for many people varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency can cause problems.
- Legs feeling heavy or tired
- Aching legs
- Swelling (rings formed by the sock)
- Restless legs
The symptoms can get worse after standing a long time or at the end of the day. Discoloration—a dark or bronze skin color—extending from the mid-calf down to the ankles can occur.
Over time, the constant pressure on the vein walls from weakened valves, or venous insufficiency, can lead to more inflammation, persistent swelling, further discoloration and leathery skin. In the most severe or advanced cases, ulcers may form at or above the ankles.
Some people with this condition are able to find relief by raising their legs or with lifestyle changes (avoiding long periods of standing, losing weight and walking). Others get relief by wearing compression stockings or compression sleeves. More advanced stages and symptoms require treatments that identify the veins that aren’t working and “closing or removing them” using a variety of techniques.