About varicose veins

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In normal veins, tiny one-way valves direct the flow of blood. In some people, these valves may malfunction.

When they do, blood leaks backwards where it pools and pressure builds. Weakened and damaged by this process, the veins become enlarged, twisted, and rope-like—visible near the surface most commonly in the legs and ankles.

Several risk factors contribute to vein disease and malfunctioning valves, including aging and genetics (if you have a family member with varicose veins, you’re more likely to develop them yourself). Pregnancy or even a job that requires you to be on your feet can also lead to varicose veins.1

Common symptoms

The first physical symptom of varicose veins is usually their appearance. As the disease progresses, though, other symptoms occur. These include:

  • Heavy, tired, and achy legs, with symptoms worsening during prolonged periods of sitting or standing.
  • Painful swelling as well as tenderness around the bulging veins.
  • Muscle cramping, sometimes accompanied by a burning feeling in the lower legs1.

Unless the underlying cause of varicose veins is treated, over time they will usually enlarge and worsen.


If you have varicose veins, you probably know what they look like. But varicose veins are more than just a cosmetic concern: they have the potential to develop into a serious medical issue.

With blood flow compromised, skin conditions can result—from intense itching to ulceration. Vein rupture and bleeding can occur, as well as blood clots. As a sign of chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins demand your attention. 


  1. Overview V. Varicose veins: Overview. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279247/. Published 2019. Accessed May 30, 2019.
  2. Chronic Venous Insufficiency | Society for Vascular Surgery. Vascular.org. https://vascular.org/patient-resources/vascular-conditions/chronic-venous-insufficiency. Published 2019. Accessed June 2, 2019.