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Are Varicose Veins Always Visible?

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Varicose veins are more common in the United States than you may think. According to a study, approximately 23% of adults in the United States suffer from varicose veins. This means they affect over 20 million women and over 10 million men between 40-80 years of age

Most people learn that they have varicose vein issues when they see those blue, bulging veins on their legs or other areas. It’s hard to deny that visible veins on legs are a sign of varicose veins. But is it possible to have varicose veins without the visual presence of those blue, bulging veins?

Today we will get into whether varicose veins are always visible and what other clues you should watch out for to keep your vein health 

Is it possible to have invisible varicose veins?

The short answer to this question is yes, you can have invisible varicose veins. Don’t let that idea scare you too much, however. Other signs exist to let you know that you have varicose veins under the surface so as long as you pay attention to those symptoms and get to a vein specialist, you should be fine. The early stages of varicose veins don’t always show themselves on the surface, so keep your eye out for other symptoms of vein disease besides simply visible veins.

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So what signs should you watch out for? Here are the invisible symptoms of varicose veins to be aware of.

Swelling

If you find that your legs, feet, and/or ankles are swelling, you may be dealing with varicose veins. Damaged veins restrict your blood flow and that can show itself in the form of swelling, as the blood isn’t able to pump back up to your heart as it should with a healthy vein.

Cramping

Many people think that cramping is due to muscle fatigue, diabetes, old age, and more. However, cramping is actually one of the first signs that you have varicose veins. Cramping is caused when your veins are damaged and cause your muscles to involuntarily contract. 

Heaviness

Are your legs feeling heavier than usual? This could be a sign of varicose veins. Your legs feel heavy due to the fact that your valves in the damaged veins are “leaking.” This means that the vein walls become dilated and your veins are unable to work correctly, which leads to venous reflux. 

Itching and burning

One of the unfortunate symptoms of invisible varicose veins is itching and burning. This happens when blood builds up in your damaged veins and eventually leaks out into your skin. This is also coupled with inflammation that blocks oxygen from reaching your skin, thus causing them to itch and burn.

Restlessness in legs

Do you go to bed feeling major discomfort if you stop moving your legs? Chances are good you have restless leg syndrome as a result of your invisible varicose veins. Restless leg syndrome makes it feel nearly impossible to stop moving your legs, as the pain and discomfort lessen as long as you keep moving. Restless legs happen because your damaged veins cause blood to pool, which leads to muscle problems and restless legs. 

Now that you know it’s possible to have varicose veins that don’t always result in blue, bulging visible veins, let’s talk about what to do if any of the above symptoms sound like something you’re dealing with.

If you can say “yes” to having any of the symptoms above, it is time to schedule an appointment with a Vein Clinics of America doctor. Even if you don’t have visible veins on your legs, you may be suffering from vein issues that have the potential to go much deeper than varicose veins. And if they are varicose veins, just invisible ones, then your doctor will come up with a treatment plan to knock them out before they cause you bigger problems.

It is always better to err on the safe side and get a diagnosis from your vein specialist at the first sign that something with your veins is amiss — even if that sign isn’t actually visible varicose veins.

Are you experiencing visible veins on your legs?

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Satish Vayuvegula
Dr. Satish Vayuvegula is the National Medical Director at Vein Clinics of America. Certified by the American Board of Venous & Lymphatic Medicine, Dr. Satish Vayuvegula is recognized as a physician who has met rigorous standards of knowledge and extensive training in phlebology, the diagnosis and treatment of varicose vein disease and related disorders. Dr. Satish also shares his passion and expertise by serving as a board member of the American Vein and Lymphatic Society, the predominant national organization for venous and lymphatic disease.

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