Varicose veins are superficial veins that bulge due to injury, age, genetics or other factors. Often, larger varicose veins are the result of valves that fail to keep blood flowing toward the heart. Instead, the blood flows downward and pools in veins in the legs, causing the vein walls to stretch until the vein bulges from the skin surface.
Varicose veins sometimes cause pain, swelling or itching in the leg. Severe varicose veins can affect the health of the skin and lead to eczema, inflammation or open sores.
Spider veins, the most common vein problem, are broken capillaries. They appear as small red, blue or purple web-like veins on the surface of the skin. Spider veins aren’t harmful, but may be considered unsightly and cause some people to feel self-conscious.
Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins near the surface of the skin. The most common form of varicose veins progresses downward in either or both of two large veins near the surface of the leg.
Symptoms of varicose veins are easy to recognize. They include:
Symptoms may worsen after standing or sitting for long periods of time. People with varicose veins often do not experience symptoms but may be concerned about the appearance of the veins. Varicose veins develop slowly, but once they start they progress, they do not get better on their own.
Some people may be more likely to develop varicose veins because of their genetics, the aging process, or hormone changes. Varicose veins may also result from conditions that increase the pressure on the leg veins, such as obesity, pregnancy, or having an occupation that requires you to stand for long periods of time. If they occur during pregnancy, it is due to increased pressure from the uterus on the pelvic and leg veins, increased blood volume and changing hormones.
Varicose veins on the surface of your legs are not associated with dangerous blood clots that can travel to your heart or lungs and cause an obstruction (embolism). Any clot that forms near the surface will generally be small. There may be inflammation but the clot does not seriously threaten your health.
Treatment for varicose and spider veins can be either conservative through the use of compression stockings, elevation of the leg or more corrective through the use of surgical techniques such as vein injections, vein closure or vein removal (stripping).