DVT vs. Varicose Veins: How Varicose Veins Symptoms Differ

doctor holding stethoscope

Table of Contents

  • Your Vein Health: What You Need to Know
  • What Are Varicose Veins?
  • The Causes and Symptoms of Varicose Veins 
  • What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis? 
  • The Causes and Symptoms of DVT
  • What Increases the Risk of DVT?
  • Key Differences Between Varicose Vein and DVT Symptoms 
  • When Should You See a Doctor?

Varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis are conditions with symptoms that may mimic each other. It is important for you to understand the differences and when to seek medical advice1

Your Vein Health: What You Need to Know

Many people believe that the worst part of varicose veins2 is how they look. But, there are links between these veins and infrequent complications like blood clots or deep vein thrombosis. 

Varicose veins are common, with as many as 30% to 50% of adults developing them at some time in their lives3

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins4 are twisted, enlarged veins. While they’re the most common in the legs, they can happen anywhere in the body. 

Usually, they’re not considered a serious medical condition, but they can cause discomfort or function as symptoms of more serious conditions. Depending on where they are, some people find them unsightly or embarrassing. There are several treatments available5 to reduce them and their symptoms.

The Causes and Symptoms of Varicose Veins 

Varicose veins are abnormal blood vessels6 that develop as a result of vessel walls weakening. They are linked to faulty valves and increased pressure within the blood vessels7 of the legs or other parts of the body.  Once they weaken, they begin to swell and bulge. 

The risk factors for varicose veins include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Standing regularly
  • Taking birth control
  • Using hormone replacement therapy
  • Obesity
  • A genetic predisposition or family history of varicose veins

The symptoms of varicose veins8 vary, but they usually include:

  • Color changes affecting the skin
  • Unusual sensations in the legs, including aching, burning, or a heavy feeling
  • Rashes
  • Sores on the legs

Varicose veins9 may also develop superficial blood clots that cause symptoms of warmth, redness, tenderness, pain, or swelling.

What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis? 

Deep vein thrombosis10 occurs when a blood clot forms deep in the veins of the legs. DVT usually affects just one leg.

It’s important to seek treatment if you see symptoms of a DVT11 since it can be dangerous if a clot breaks off. 

The Causes and Symptoms of DVT

There are a number of causes of deep vein thrombosis; varicose veins are only one potential cause out of many. 

One of the greatest risks is a sedentary lifestyle. Sedentary lifestyles12 can lead to the development of varicose veins13, so if you sit for work, you may be at a greater risk. Sitting also allows blood to pool and increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis. 

Other causes of DVT may include:

  • Sitting for a long time
  • A family history of pulmonary embolism or DVT
  • Having a medical condition that increases the chances of a blood clot
  • Pregnancy
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Birth control
  • Bed rest
  • Damage to the veins

Some of the symptoms that may be a sign that you have DVT include:

  • Discolored or reddened skin
  • Tenderness or pain when standing or walking
  • Warmth
  • Unusual swelling, such as if one leg or foot is swollen more than the other

Some people won’t show signs of DVT. It isn’t usually problematic unless a part of the clot breaks free and travels to the lungs. There, a clot can cause a pulmonary embolism.

What Increases the Risk of DVT?

If you have varicose veins, they won’t necessarily lead to deep vein thrombosis. However, they can cause problems the longer you have them. You may have an increased risk of DVTs because of varicose veins. 

Risk factors for DVT resulting from varicose veins may also include:

  • Age
  • Living a sedentary lifestyle
  • Injury or surgery
  • Prolonged bed rest
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Birth control pills or hormone replacement 

Key Differences Between Varicose Vein and DVT Symptoms 

There are several important differences between varicose veins symptoms and DVTs. 

Varicose veins14:

  • Are usually not dangerous
  • May lead to surface-level clots that generally do not break free or travel to the lungs
  • May not have any blood clots at all
  • Are abnormally long, winding, and dilated blood vessels

Deep vein thrombosis is when a blood clot has formed in a deep internal vein. Deep vein thrombosis:

  • Blocks the blood flow of a vein
  • Could be a medical emergency if the blood clot breaks off and travels to the lungs
  • Is more likely to cause significant pain and discomfort

When Should You See a Doctor?

Your doctor may be able to remove your varicose veins15 or help you reduce your risk of developing more. 

It’s essential to see a medical provider for varicose veins16 if:

  • You see regular swelling and inflammation around the vein
  • You can’t sleep well due to pain or irritation around the vein
  • Your legs feel heavy or tired on a daily basis
  • You have dull, achy pain that is in the same region as the varicose vein

If you’re showing signs of deep vein thrombosis, you should seek medical care immediately if:

  • You are short of breath
  • You’re coughing up blood
  • You have pain when trying to take a deep breath
  • Your heart is racing
  • You’re breathing rapidly to get enough oxygen

These are all signs that a blood clot has traveled to the lungs. 

With either condition, if you notice anything new or unusual, reach out to your medical provider. Pain, unusual sensations, or new swelling should all be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible. 

At My Vein Treatment, we know that these conditions can seem frightening, but they’re not always emergencies. Varicose veins17 sometimes have superficial blood clots, but those are not life-threatening. Superficial clots generally only cause mild discomfort. Caught early, DVT can also be treated. 

If you’d like to learn more about the options for treating varicose veins18 or related conditions, visit us at My Vein Treatment19


  1. My Vein Treatment. https://myveintreatment.com/what-to-expect-on-your-first-appointment-with-a-vein-specialist/ 
  2. My Vein Treatment. https://myveintreatment.com/the-4-most-effective-treatments-for-varicose-vein-removal-2/ 
  3. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/are-your-varicose-veins-a-sign-of-deeper-trouble/ 
  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/varicose-veins 
  5. My Vein Treatment. https://myveintreatment.com/the-4-most-effective-treatments-for-varicose-vein-removal/
  6. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/are-your-varicose-veins-a-sign-of-deeper-trouble/ 
  7. My Vein Treatment. https://myveintreatment.com/your-guide-to-chronic-venous-insufficiency/
  8. Johns Hopkins Medicine https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/varicose-veins 
  9. My Vein Treatment. https://myveintreatment.com/varicose-veins-vs-spider-veins-whats-the-difference/
  10. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/dvt/is-it-dvt-or-something-else 
  11. My Vein Treatment. https://myveintreatment.com/when-do-varicose-veins-become-a-concern/
  12. My Vein Treatment. https://myveintreatment.com/can-sitting-cause-spider-veins-on-legs-a-guide-for-modern-life/
  13. My Vein Treatment. https://myveintreatment.com/what-are-the-signs-of-varicose-veins-and-spider-veins/ 
  14. Difference Between. https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-deep-vein-thrombosis-and-vs-varicose-veins/ 
  15. My Vein Treatment. https://myveintreatment.com/varicose-vein-removal-prognosis-5-things-to-know/ 
  16. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/are-your-varicose-veins-a-sign-of-deeper-trouble/ 
  17. My Vein Treatment. https://myveintreatment.com/what-happens-if-varicose-veins-go-untreated/
  18. My Vein Treatment. https://myveintreatment.com/does-sclerotherapy-hurt-a-new-patients-handbook/
  19. My Vein Treatment. https://myveintreatment.com/how-to-find-the-best-vein-doctor-near-me-key-tips-more/

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