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Varicose Veins

Understanding what's underneath the surface.

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Overview  |  Symptoms  |  Causes  |  Treatment & Diagnosis

What are varicose veins?

Bulging veins that indicate an underlying disease that we can treat.

Varicose veins are enlarged, bulgy veins that you can clearly see above the surface of the skin. They’re found most commonly in the legs, but not always.

Varicose veins aren’t always just directly under the skin–they often occur deeper underneath the skin’s surface where you can’t easily see them. This is where vein disease can lay hidden, worsening over time, so it’s important for vascular specialists to get underneath the surface to treat the underlying cause.

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

-Aside from an unpleasant appearance, symptoms can include: pain, fatigue, itching, burning, swelling, cramping, restlessness, and throbbing.

Illustration of varicose veins

  • Appearance
    Large, bulging, rope-like; color varies
  • Location
    Usually legs, rarely arms
  • Severity
    Moderate, and indicative of vein disease
  • Discomfort
    Moderate; frequently a problem

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What causes varicose veins?

Most people have varicose veins because of malfunctioning valves.

Varicose veins are caused by unhealthy valves inside the veins that impede the normal flow of blood back to the heart. Blood pools in the veins, enlarging and distorting them. Watch the video below and learn more about varicose veins and the available treatment options.


If you have swollen, twisted veins beneath your skin, you have varicose veins. Most often, they are found in the legs and the feet. They can be painful, and many people feel embarrassed by them.


Varicose veins are caused by a problem with the one-way valves inside your veins. The valves help control blood flow. In your legs, for example, veins must fight gravity to lift your blood back up to your heart. The valves keep your blood from seeping back down in the brief moments between heartbeats. If your valves are weak or damaged, blood leaks down and pools in your veins. Your veins swell and stretch. They may begin to twist as they expand.

Risk Factors

Varicose veins are more common in women and in older people. Your risk is higher if you have a family history of the condition. Being overweight can increase your risk. Being pregnant can, too. Your risk is higher if you do a lot of standing or sitting all day, especially if you sit with crossed legs for long periods. And, previous blood clots or vein injuries can increase your risk.


Symptoms of varicose veins may include bulging veins and discolored skin. Your veins may be painful. In your legs, you may have aches and cramping and a heavy feeling. Your legs and ankles may itch. Your ankles and feet may swell. And if your condition is severe, you may develop a rash and sores on your skin.


If you have varicose veins, you may benefit from losing weight or from wearing different shoes or clothes. It may help to raise your legs when you rest. Compression stocking may also help. You may benefit from a medical procedure to treat your veins. Your healthcare provider can create a plan that is right for you.

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Who gets varicose veins?

Men and women of all ages can develop varicose veins.

Many of us will eventually encounter vein health issues. It’s usually hereditary, so if your parents or grandparents have or had varicose veins, you’re more likely to develop them, too. If you become pregnant or have a job or lifestyle that requires standing for long periods of time, this may worsen the condition.

Real Patients, Real Results

After treatment I could do all my regular activities; I was able to run within a few days.

Read and watch Michelle's story  

Varicose veins diagnosis & treatment

Quick, effective outpatient visits treat the root cause, not just the symptoms.

Varicose veins and their underlying cause are quite treatable, and it’s our specialty at Vein Clinics of America. We offer patients two main varicose vein treatment procedures – both quick, minimally invasive, and requiring no hospitalization – that seal off veins with unhealthy valves. Blood circulation then returns to the veins with properly working valves, and closed veins are eventually absorbed back into the body.

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