Skip to main content

Varicose Veins


What are varicose veins?

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

Varicose Veins

What increases my risk for varicose veins?

  • Pregnancy
  • A family history of varicose veins
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Age 50 years or older
  • Sitting or standing for long periods of time
  • Wearing tight clothing

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 fatigue or heaviness in your legs

How are varicose veins diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your legs and ask about your medical history. You may need tests, such as a Doppler ultrasound or duplex scan. These tests show your veins and valves, and how your blood is flowing through them. These tests may also show if there is a blockage or blood clot.

How are varicose veins treated?

The goal of treatment is to decrease symptoms, improve appearance, and prevent further problems. Treatment will depend on which veins are affected and how severe your condition is. You may need procedures to treat or remove your varicose veins. For example, your healthcare provider may inject a solution or use a laser to close the varicose veins. Surgery to remove long veins may also be done. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about procedures used to treat varicose veins.

What can I do to manage my symptoms?

  • Do not sit or stand for long periods of time. This can cause the blood to collect in your legs and make your symptoms worse. Bend or rotate your ankles several times every hour. Walk around for a few minutes every hour to get blood moving in your legs.
  • Do not cross your legs when you sit. This decreases blood flow to your feet and can make your symptoms worse.
  • Do not wear tight clothing or shoes. Do not wear high-heeled shoes. Do not wear clothes that are tight around the waist or knees.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can make your varicose veins worse. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him or her to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
  • Wear pressure stockings as directed. The stockings are tight and put pressure on your legs. They improve blood flow and help prevent clots.
    Pressure Stockings
  • Elevate your legs. Keep them above the level of your heart for 15 to 30 minutes several times a day. You can also prop the end of your bed up slightly to elevate your legs while you sleep. This will help blood to flow back to your heart.
    Elevate Leg
  • Get regular exercise. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise can improve blood flow to your legs and feet.
    Hispanic Family Walking for Exercise

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a wound that does not heal or is infected.
  • You have an injury that has broken your skin and caused your varicose veins to bleed.
  • Your leg is swollen and hard.
  • 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.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have pain in your leg that does not go away or gets worse.
  • You notice sudden large bruising on your legs.
  • You have a rash on your leg.
  • Your symptoms keep you from doing your daily activities.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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 healthcare providers 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.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 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 IBM Watson Health

Learn more about Varicose Veins

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.