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Varicose Veins: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Varicose Veins: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

by Zahra Ijaz · August 12, 2021

Do you have spider-like structures on your legs and ankles? Don’t worry. These are Varicose Veins.

Most often they are purple or red in color and do not cause pain and discomfort.

However, if they do, seek immediate medical attention. Keep on reading to learn about the causes, symptoms, stages, and treatment options in this guide.


Varicose Veins

Varicose veins also termed Varicoses or varicosities are twisted, enlarged walls of the veins and blood vessels.

Your whole body contains a circulatory system that consists of both veins and arteries, however, when your veins become enlarged and painful, they are Varicose Veins.

Keep on reading to learn more about them.

varicose veins

Any superficial vein in your body can be affected, however, excessive standing and walking hours increase the pressure in the veins of your lower body. This causes them to develop and is mostly observable on your legs.

For many individuals, these are common, with a mild variation of varicose veins. And you can get rid of them with the help of a cosmetic procedure.

However, in some cases, it can cause aching pain and discomfort and can lead to more serious problems.

Now let’s discuss what increases your risk of developing varicose or spider veins.

normal vein vs. varicose vein

Risk Factors

The following factors can increase your risk of developing varicose veins.
As you age, there is an increase in the risk of developing these types of veins.

Aging causes wear and tear on the valves in your veins that help regulate blood flow.

With time, that wear and tear cause them to allow some blood to flow back into your veins where it starts collecting.

Women are more likely to develop varicose veins as compared to men.

Hormonal changes before your period or during pregnancy or menopause can lead to it.

This is because hormones tend to relax vein walls.

Hormonal treatments like birth control pills can also increase your risk of varicose veins.

As you conceive, the volume of blood in your body increases.

This change supports the growing fetus, however, can also have unfortunate side effects like enlarged veins in your legs.

Moreover, hormonal changes during pregnancy also increase your risk of developing spider veins.

Family History
If anyone in your family or either or both of your parents have varicose veins, then there is a greater chance you will too.

Being obese puts pressure on your veins that can disrupt the flow of veins in your lower body.

Standing or Sitting for Long Periods of Time
While you stand or sit for longer periods of time, the blood does not flow in a proper way in your body.

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Let’s learn about the causes and symptoms of Varicose Veins.


Causes and Symptoms of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins or varicose are enlarged, dilated, and overfilled veins with blood.

This condition is common in women and around 25% of adults have varicose veins. In most cases, they appear on the lower legs.

Learning the early causes and symptoms can help get initial treatment and prevent any complications like ulcers, blood clots, etc.

Moreover, learning about the stages and on which stage you are can help decide the treatment option that best suits you.

The following section covers up the causes and symptoms of spider veins.

causes of varicose veins

Causes of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins occur when the veins in your body are not functioning properly.

Veins have a one-way valve that prevents blood from flowing back and when these valves fail, blood begins to collect in your veins rather than moving towards the heart.

The veins because of this enlarge and varicose veins often affect the legs or lower legs.

Moreover, it is important to note that veins that are farthest away from your heat and gravity make it harder for the blood to flow upward.

causes and symptoms

Some other potential causes of spider veins are:
Pregnancy, menopause, age above 50, obesity, family history, and standing for long periods of time.

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins may not cause any pain, however, there are certain signs that make them noticeable.

These are:

  • Veins that are dark purple or blue in color
  • Veins that appear twisted and building, and are often like cords on your legs, especially on your calves

However, in case they are painful you might also observe the following:

An achy or heavy feeling or sensations in your legs, burning, muscle scarping, and swelling in the lower legs.

Moreover, the pain may worsen while sitting or standing for a long period of time, itching around one or more veins and skin discoloration around the varicose vein.

It is important to note that spider veins are similar to varicose veins, however, spider veins are smaller.

Spider veins are noticeable close to the surface of the skin and are often red or blue.

These occur on your legs and can also be found on your face, and vary in size, and looks like a spider web.

5 Stages of Development of Varicose Veins

It is important to understand the early warning signs as many people suffer from varicose veins worldwide.

It is a progressive condition and can worsen if you do not get treatment in the early stages.

The following are the 5 stages of varicose veins and understanding the early signs and symptoms can help you treat them effectively.

Stage #1: Spider Veins
This is the first stage and often goes unnoticed as there are not many symptoms that make them observable.

Spider veins are an unsightly nuisance of tiny, flat-purple veins and are smaller in size.

These are due to family history, pregnancy, menopause, hormonal imbalance, obesity, or standing and sitting for prolonged periods of time.

Stage #2: Reticular Veins
Reticular veins also appear as flat, red, or blue spider veins near the surface of your skin, however, are smaller than varicose veins.

Moreover, these may also feed into spider veins, providing them excess blood.

The causes of reticular veins are the same as that of spider veins.


Stage #3: Varicose veins
Varicose veins are large, swollen, and bulging that typically appear on your legs and feet.

While it may not causes discomfort in some people, it can be extremely uncomfortable.

Moreover, they are accompanied by pain, swelling, hardening, or severe inflammation around the area.

Stage #4: Chronic Venous Insufficiency
In this stage, your veins have trouble sending blood from your limbs back to the heat.

Thus, blood does not flow back causing blood to accumulate in the veins of your legs.

There are a number of factors that can cause chronic venous insufficiency.
These are blood clots, deep veins thrombosis, smoking, obesity, and muscle weakness among others.

Moreover, if you do not get treatment, it can cause swelling of the legs and ankles, tightness in claves, brown or leathery skin, muscle spasms, and leg ulcers.

Additionally, it can also cause skin discoloration or Lipodermatosclerosis and in this, your skin may begin to crack and bleed.

Stage #5: Trophic Ulcers
In the most advanced stage, and in this one ulcer and open sores begin to form.

This results in the breakdown of the skin tissue from inadequate blood flow.

There are 3 categories of skin ulcers: Venous stasis, diabetic ulcers, and arterial ulcers.

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Diagnosis and Treatment Options

In case you experience pain and discomfort due to varicose veins, it is important to visit your doctor.

In most cases, they will recommend certain lifestyle changes than aggressive treatments to ease your pain.

Let’s learn about the diagnosis and treatment options for varicose veins.

treatment of varicose veins

Diagnosing Varicose Veins

Your doctor will most likely examine your legs and visible veins while you are standing or sitting to diagnose such veins.

They can also ask you about any signs of pain or discomfort you might be experiencing.

Moreover, they may also perform an ultrasound to check your blood flow and is a noninvasive test that uses high-frequency sound waves.

It allows them to see how your blood is flowing through the veins in your body.

Depending on the location of such veins, a venogram may also be done to assess your veins further.

During this test your doctor will inject a special dye into your leg and take an X-ray, this dye appears on the X-ray, giving your doctor a better view of your blood flow.

Such tests help ensure your doctor that another disorder like blood clots or deep vein thrombosis is not present.

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Treatment Options

Treatment options usually do not mean a hospital stay or a long uncomfortable recovery.

With less invasive procedures, various veins can generally be treated on an outpatient basis.

Moreover, your doctor will advise you to make certain lifestyle changes before trying any aggressive treatments.

To treat varicose veins:

Self-care like exercising, losing weight, avoiding wearing tight clothes, and not standing for long periods of time can ease pain and prevent them from getting worse.

Compression Stockings

Wearing compression stakings the whole day is often the first approach to try before moving to other treatments.

They steadily squeeze the legs, helping your veins and leg muscles move more blood efficiently.

However, the amount of compression varies by type and brand.

compression stockings

You can buy compression stakings from a pharmacy or medical supply stores.

Prescription-strength stakings, however, are also available and are mostly covered by your insurance.

Additional Treatments

If your body does not respond well to self-care and compression stakings and you have a more severe condition, then your doctor may suggest the following treatments:

In this therapy, your doctor will inject small and medium-sized veins with a solution or foam that scars and closes the veins.

After a few weeks, the scars fade away. Although you may need more injections in the same vein, however, if your doctor administers it properly then you do not need another one.

Moreover, this procedure does not require anesthesia and can be done in your doctor’s office.

For larger veins, they will perform Foam Sclerotherapy to close the vein and seal it.

Laser Treatment
Many doctors are now using laser treatment to close off smaller varicose veins and spider veins.

This treatment works by sending strong beams of light onto the vein, which makes them fade and disappear slowly.

Catheter-Assisted Procedures During Radiofrequency or Laser Energy
In either of these treatments, your doctor will insert a thin tube into a large vein and heats the tip of the catheter using either radiofrequency or laser energy.

other treatments

As it is pulled out, the heat will destroy the vein by causing it to collapse and seal.

It is important to note that many doctors recommend it if you have larger varicose veins.

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Other Treatments

Other treatments your doctor may recommend are as follows:

High litigation and Vein Stripping
This procedure involves tying off a vein before it joins a deep vein.

With the help of small incisions, your doctor will remove the vein.

This is an outpatient procedure, thus, removing the vein will keep the vein from circulating in your leg as veins deeper in the leg take care of large volumes of blood.

Ambulatory Phlebectomy
This involves removing smaller varicose veins through a series of tiny skin punctures.

Your doctor will numb only the parts where they are pricking the veins. Moreover, scarring is generally minimal.

Endoscopic Vein Surgery
This is the option for the treatment of ulcers if other techniques fail.

Your surgeon will use a thin video camera into your leg to visualize and close varicose veins.

They will then remove the veins through small incisions and are performed on an outpatient basis.

It is important to note that varicose veins that develop during pregnancy improve without medical treatments within 3 to 12 months after delivery.

Preventing them

Unfortunately, the answer is No.
You cannot prevent them, however, you can prevent the existing ones from worsening.

You can also live a healthy life to delay problems with the veins as long as possible.

The following are a few tips to prevent them:
1# Avoid Prolonged Periods of Sitting and Standing

Standing or sitting in one position for a long time makes it harder for your blood to travel back. This causes the pressure in your veins to rise.

This can cause blood to pool around your ankles and feet causing swelling and aches.

Motions like peddling your feet, stretching your ankles, and bending your knees can help decrease venous pressure and improve blood circulation.

2# Waer Compression Hosiery
These can help keep your vein valves in the right position and makes it easier for your veins to function properly.

This reduces blood pooling, swelling, and pain.

You might experience night cramps in some cases. Thus, it is a good idea to talk to your physician before choosing the type of compression socks and stockings.

Live a healthy lifestyle and Exercise
Varicose veins develop because of the risk factors like gender, family history, obesity, etc.

Thus, eating a healthy diet can help prevent damage to your veins.

Exercising is also important for your body. Walking can help prevent varicose veins.

Yoga is a good option as well and you can practice many poses that bring your feet higher than your heart.

These are inversions and they include a headstand, shoulder stand, a Legs-up-the-Wall pose.


Although rare, however, there are a few complications. These are:

They can form on the skin near varicose veins especially near the ankles.

You will notice a discolored spot on the skin before it forms. Thus, you should visit your doctor immediately in such a case.

Blood Clots
Deep veins within your legs become enlarged and can become painful and cause swelling.

You should immediately seek medical attention as it indicated thrombophlebitis.

In some cases, the veins close to your skin can burst and cause minor bleeding.

But keep in mind that any bleeding requires medical attention.

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Varicose veins get worse with time, thus, you should make necessary lifestyle changes to control them and manage your pain.

While you may not foresee them, they do not cause any long-term medical problems. However, in some cases, they can lead to ulcers and sores, blood clots, or chronic inflammation.

You should immediately seek medical attention if you develop any of the symptoms and they may suggest an aggressive treatment like surgery or other interventions.

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