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What Does Varicose Vein Leg Pain Feel Like?

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Varicose veins. These unsightly veins are not loved by anyone, but for some people, varicose veins don’t cause them any problems. Aside from the appearance, there are some lucky varicose vein victims who don’t deal with any discomfort or pain due to their varicose veins.

And unfortunately, there are others who have to deal not only with the bad appearance of varicose veins but also the pain that they can cause.

If you are someone who suffers from pain caused by your varicose veins, read on to find out why they are hurting you, and effective varicose vein pain relief ideas.

Varicose Vein Pain

Varicose veins come with a slew of symptoms including things such as:

  • Swollen feet and legs
  • Burning
  • Throbbing
  • Muscle cramps (or Charlie horses)
  • Itchy skin
  • Heaviness in the legs
  • Skin discoloration or skin rashes
  • Aching legs

Symptoms of varicose veins are typically worse with prolonged sitting, prolonged standing, or at the end of the day. Patients frequently mistake them as a normal part of aging and assume that everyone feels them.

Let’s get into more detail about the pain that is associated with these common symptoms.

Skin discoloration

Stagnant blood pooling at the skin surface in diseased veins can cause chronic inflammation and thus, results in discoloration of your skin.


Varicose veins can sometimes mean this condition which causes the skin and the fat under your skin to become inflamed and end up turning hard. This is an area of chronic inflammation and scar tissue that frequently precedes a skin ulceration. If present, this represents an indication to have your veins evaluated and likely treated to prevent ulceration.


Swelling in the legs when you have varicose veins means more than meets the eye. If your legs are swelling, that means that the pressure in your veins has been built up so much that leakage is now occurring in the tissue around your damaged vein. This will cause great discomfort as it feels like your skin is being stretched tighter and tighter. 

Skin Ulcers

When varicose veins are left untreated, the skin damage outlined above can turn into skin ulcers. Skin ulcers are a result of the nutrients and oxygen in your body struggling to get through. And those nutrients and oxygen are what keep your body healthy and keep your body properly healing. Without the ability to do its job, your body can develop skin ulcers that are very painful.

Examples of Vein Disease

Venous Ulcers

This type of ulcer is the most common complication of varicose veins that results when varicose vein issues are left untreated. 

Venous ulcers are a result of blood pooling in the lower leg veins. This leads to leakage into the skin and other tissues, which can lead to itchiness and skin changes, as well as a number of other things. Here are the top symptoms of venous ulcers:

  • Pain
  • Tight, shiny discolored surrounding skin
  • Bad odor and potentially pus
  • Unevenly shaped sore

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Varicose veins are a known risk factor for deep vein thrombosis. This condition happens when a blood clot ends up developing in your vein. And this is no small thing. CDC studies found that between 60,000 and 100,000 people in the U.S. die from DVT every year

Varicose Vein Pain Relief

If any of the above sounds familiar to you, the first thing you want to do is get to a vein specialist. Many vein issues may not seem like a big deal, but you never know when things will change and that purely cosmetic becomes a major problem deep down.

Find a vein specialist in your city here

Here are some additional things you can do to help ease the pain caused by your varicose veins.

Elevate your legs. By putting your legs up above your heart, you promote blood flow and make it easier for the blood to move through your body as it should, despite damaged veins. 

Stretch. Stretching is very important for all people, but especially those with vein issues, and even more so if you spend the majority of your day sitting. Stand up on your tiptoes and drop back down to stretch your calf muscles. Also, flex your feet to keep the blood pumping. 

Exercise. Whether exercise to you means running 6 miles, or walking for 20 minutes, any exercise you can get into your daily life will help your vein issues immensely. In fact, walking is one of the best low-impact things you can do to help get your blood moving and help your varicose veins.

Woman wearing sport shoes

Wear compression stockings. These socks provide great relief to vain pain because they help support your veins and give them a break from doing so much hard work on their own. Compression stockings also help to prevent swelling from happening, which can lead to pain. 

It’s always better to be safe and schedule a consultation with a Vein Clinics of America doctor who will diagnose your vein issues and determine what is going on underneath the surface.

From there, you can figure out what level of treatment is necessary and what will give you the best results in getting rid of any and all vein pain you may be experiencing.

Are your veins causing you leg pain?

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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