Varicose Veins


Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are veins that have become swollen with blood, leading to a tangled appearance and pain. The swelling in varicose veins arises from improper venous function, leading to inappropriate blood collection. Generally, varicose veins occur in the legs, but they can occur in other regions of the body as well.

Varicose veins arise from blood pooling, usually in the legs. Blood pooling can occur as a result of congenitally malformed venous valves or other conditions, such as pregnancy or thrombophlebitis (vein swelling due to a blood clot). Extended periods spent standing may increase your risk of developing varicose veins. Symptoms of varicose veins include visible, raised, swollen or malformed “tangles” of veins, leg pain, and swelling, and in severe cases, ulcers of the legs.

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In most cases, varicose veins can be treated by avoiding excessive standing, sleeping with your legs elevated, or wearing support hose. In more severe cases, nonsurgical intervention such as laser ablation may be performed. If varicose veins are causing extreme pain or are at risk of rupturing, surgical vein stripping may be effective. Varicose veins may worsen with time if appropriate medical or home treatment is not obtained.

While complications are rare, varicose veins can be a serious condition. Seek prompt medical care if you, or someone you are with, experience severe leg pain, develop ulcers of the legs or ankles, or if varicose veins have become warm or tender to the touch. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated or performing self-treatment for varicose veins and your symptoms do not improve.