Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are swollen and enlarged veins, usually blue or dark purple in color. They may also be lumpy, bulging or twisted in appearance. They mostly occur in the legs. The blood is prevented from flowing backwards by a series of tiny valves that open and close to let blood through. If the valves weaken or are damaged, the blood can flow backwards and can collect in the vein, eventually causing it to be swollen and enlarged (varicose). This allows blood to flow backwards and they enlarge even more.

Varicose veins are most common in the superficial veins of the legs, which are subject to high pressure when standing. Besides being a cosmetic problem, varicose veins can be painful, especially when standing. Severe long-standing varicose veins can lead to leg swelling, venous eczema, skin thickening and ulceration. Life-threatening complications are uncommon, but Varicose veins may be confused for deep vein thrombosis, that may be life-threatening.


Varicose veins are dark purple or blue in color and are usually twisted and bulging in appearance. Some people with varicose veins may experience pain or discomfort. Symptoms of varicose veins can include:

  • Aching, heavy and uncomfortable legs
  • Appearance of spider veins (telangiectasia) in the affected leg.
  • Swollen feet and ankles
  • Burning or throbbing in legs
  • Muscles cramps in legs, particularly at night
  • Dry, itchy and thin skin over the affected vein


Varicose veins are usually caused by weak vein walls and valves. Other risks factors involved are:

  • Gender: Females are more likely to have varicose veins than males.
  • Genetics: It often runs in families
  • Age: Older person gets more chances of varicose veins.
  • Overweight: Overweight or obese people have a significantly higher risk of developing varicose veins
  • Pregnant: Women are much more likely to develop varicose veins during their pregnancy than at any other time in their lives


Varicose veins can rarely cause a serious condition and generally do not require treatment. Varicose veins is diagnosed by their appearance. Doctor may examine legs while patient is standing to check for signs of swelling.

Further investigations:

Doppler test: A Doppler test uses an ultrasound scan to provide information about the direction of blood flow in veins. It provides an indication of how well the valves in veins work.

Color duplex ultrasound scan: A color duplex ultrasound scan provides color images of veins structure. This allows the specialist to look for any abnormalities in the veins and measure the speed of blood flow.


Varicose veins do not always need treatment. If varicose veins are not causing any discomfort, then person may not need to have treatment. If treatment is required:

Conservative: The symptoms of varicose veins can be controlled to an extent with the following:

  • Elevating the legs which often provides temporary symptomatic relief.
  • Regular exercise
  • The wearing of graduated compression stockings with variable pressure gradients (Class II or III) has been shown to reduce the swelling, nutritional exchange, and improve the micro circulation in legs affected by varicose veins


Ligation and stripping: Most surgeons use a technique called ligation and stripping, which involves tying off the vein in the affected leg and then removing it.

Sclerotherapy: Sclerotherapy is usually suitable for people who have small to medium-sized varicose veins. The treatment involves injecting a chemical into veins. The chemical scars the veins, which seals them closed.


Varicose veins may cause complications because they stop blood from flowing properly.

Bleeding: Varicose veins near the surface of skin can sometimes bleed if cut or bump leg.

Thrombophlebitis: Thrombophlebitis is inflammation (swelling) of the veins in leg caused by blood clots forming in the vein. This can occur within varicose veins.

Chronic venous insufficiency: If the blood in veins does not flow properly, it can interfere with the way skin exchanges oxygen, nutrients and waste products within blood. If the exchange is disrupted over a long period of time it is known as chronic venous insufficiency.


  • LAST UPDATED ON : Oct 29, 2015


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