Varicose Veins

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are veins that become large, twisted, and swollen. They are common on the back of your calves, knees, and thighs.

What causes varicose veins?

Varicose veins are caused by valves in your veins that do not work properly. This causes blood to collect and increase pressure in the veins of your legs. The increased pressure causes your veins to stretch, get larger, swell, and twist.


What increases my risk of varicose veins?

  • Pregnancy

  • Family history of varicose veins

  • Being overweight

  • Age, especially 50 years or older

  • Sitting or standing for long periods of time

  • Wearing tight clothing

  • Smoking

What are the signs and symptoms of varicose veins?

Your symptoms may be worse after you stand or sit for long periods of time. You may have any of the following:

  • Blue, purple, or bulging veins in your legs

  • Pain, swelling, or muscle cramps in your legs

  • Feeling of heaviness in your legs

How are varicose veins diagnosed?

Your caregiver will examine your legs and ask about your medical history. You may need a test called a Doppler ultrasound or duplex scan. This test uses sound waves to show pictures of your veins on a monitor. It is done to show how blood flows through your veins and to check for blood clots.

How are varicose veins treated?

Treatment of varicose veins aims to decrease symptoms, improve appearance, and prevent further problems. It will depend on which veins are affected and how severe your condition is. You may have any of the following:

  • Medicines: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain. You may need a doctor's order for this medicine. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.

  • Procedures: You may need a procedure to remove your varicose veins. Your caregiver may inject a solution or use a laser to close the varicose veins. Surgery to remove long veins may also be done. Ask your caregiver for more information about procedures used in treating varicose veins.

What are the risks of varicose veins?

You may bleed too much or get an infection after surgery. You may have numbness or bruising at the area where the varicose vein was treated. Even with treatment, varicose veins may come back. If not treated, varicose veins may cause leg pain. Sometimes, ulcers may form on the skin near varicose veins because of too much pressure inside the veins.

What can I do to manage my symptoms?

  • Wear compression stockings: These are tight elastic stockings that put pressure on your legs. The pressure is highest in the toe and decreases as it goes up towards the thighs. This helps push blood back up to the heart, decreases your symptoms, and helps keep blood clots from forming.



  • Elevate your legs: Raise your legs above the level of your heart for 15 to 30 minutes several times a day. This will help blood to flow back to the heart.

  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time: This can cause the blood to collect in your legs and make your symptoms worse. Walk around for a few minutes every hour to get blood moving in your legs.

  • Avoid wearing tight clothing and shoes: Avoid wearing high-heeled shoes. Do not wear clothes that are tight around the waist.

  • Get plenty of exercise: Talk to your caregiver about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise can decrease your blood pressure and improve your health. Bend or rotate your ankles several times every hour. This will help blood to flow back to the heart.

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Ask your caregiver if you need to lose weight and how much you need to lose. Your heart works harder when you are overweight and this can make varicose vein worse. Ask for help with a weight loss program.

  • Do not smoke: If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. You are more likely to have heart disease, lung disease, cancer, and other health problems if you smoke. Your health and the health of those around you will improve if you quit. If you smoke, ask for information about how to stop.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • Your symptoms get worse or they keep you from doing your daily activities.

  • You have a rash on your leg.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have a wound that does not heal or is infected.

  • Your leg is swollen and hard.

  • You have pain in your leg that does not go away or gets worse.

  • You notice that your legs or feet are turning blue or black.

  • Your leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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