Varicose Veins Symptoms & What Happens If Left Untreated

woman outdoors with varicose veins on leg

Table of Contents

  • Who Can Get Varicose Veins?
  • What Causes Varicose Veins?
  • What Are Varicose Veins Symptoms?
  • What Happens If You Don’t Treat Varicose Veins?
  • When Is the Right Time to See a Vein Specialist?
  • Find a Vein Specialist Near You

Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that appear near the surface of your leg. They look blue or purple, which can be a cosmetic concern for people. They are usually harmless and painless. But some may have varicose vein symptoms like pain and discomfort. If left untreated, they may lead to complications in some.

Who Can Get Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are quite common and aren’t a serious problem for most people. About 23% of American adults have varicose veins. They affect 22 million women and 11 million men between 40 and 80 years. They are more commonly seen in older women.1 

What Causes Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are a sign of weak veins. They can occur due to increased pressure or damaged valves in the leg veins. Valves are structures in the vein that help pump blood up to your heart against gravity. When veins become weak or damaged, the valves don’t function well. They have difficulty circulating the blood from the legs back to the heart. This causes blood to collect or pool inside the vein, making them appear swollen and twisted.2 

The exact cause of varicose veins is unclear. But several risk factors can lead to the development of varicose veins. They include:3

  • Genetics or family history of vein problems
  • Older age
  • Prolonged standing or sitting in one position
  • Being overweight
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy
  • Using birth control pills
  • Hormonal replacement therapy
  • Vein injury or trauma

Conditions that increase pressure in the legs like liver disease, fluid collection in the abdomen, groin surgery, or heart failure increase the risk of varicose veins. Other risk factors include topical steroids and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet or sun rays. Varicose veins can also occur due to chronic venous disease4 and deep vein thrombosis.5 

What Are Varicose Veins Symptoms?

Varicose veins are often painless. If you see blue or purple, twisted, enlarged, or bulging veins that look like cords, you have varicose veins. Some people may have pain and discomfort. Painful varicose veins symptoms include:6

  • Tiredness and heaviness in the legs
  • Leg pain and discomfort
  • Burning, throbbing, or swelling in the lower legs
  • Muscle cramping
  • Worsened pain after prolonged sitting or standing 
  • Itching around the veins
  • Changes in skin color or discoloration near a varicose vein

What Happens If You Don’t Treat Varicose Veins?

Sometimes, your varicose veins may go away if the underlying cause is addressed. For instance, varicose veins that appear during pregnancy often go away after giving birth.7 If you have varicose veins but don’t have any symptoms, you may choose to leave them untreated. 

Over a short while, they don’t cause any concerns. However, leaving varicose veins untreated for prolonged periods may eventually lead to painful symptoms. The symptoms can worsen with time and cause the following complications:

Heaviness and tiredness. Standing or sitting for long durations can increase the pressure on your legs and affect blood flow. Pain can be greater if you have varicose veins, which can also make your legs feel heavy and tired. This may affect your daily activities. 

Increased pain and swelling. If you leave varicose veins untreated for long, the weak veins get more damaged. Pain can worsen and swelling in your legs may result.

Venous ulcers. When the blood pools in varicose veins, it can leak out into surrounding tissues and remain there. This can tear your skin and form an open sore or ulcer. Venous ulcers are commonly seen in the lower legs. They are painful and may keep coming back if varicose veins are not treated.8

Venous eczema. People with varicose veins can develop venous eczema in the lower legs. It is also known as varicose, gravitational, or stasis eczema, and is a long-term skin problem in which your skin gets itchy, swollen, dry, flaky, scaly, or crusty. The affected skin may turn red, brown, or purple.9

Blood clots. With varicose veins, your blood circulation in the legs slows down. The pooled blood may begin to clot inside the leg vein. When the blood clots in a leg vein near the skin, it is called superficial thrombophlebitis.10 Although these blood clots are not life-threatening, it can cause swelling and pain in the affected area. 

Infection. Open sores can get infected by fungus or bacteria. Venous eczema or ulcers increase your chances of skin infection.11 

Increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Varicose veins also increase the risk of deep vein problems such as DVT.12 DVT is when a clot forms inside your deep vein. This is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. Check with your vein doctor if you have a high risk of developing this condition.

When Is the Right Time to See a Vein Specialist?

The complications of varicose veins are rarely serious or life-threatening. But the symptoms may cause pain, discomfort, and inconvenience. So, if you have any of these complications, it’s best to visit a vein specialist and seek varicose vein treatment.

Visit a vein doctor if you have the following:

  • Pain when walking or standing for long durations
  • Heaviness and tiredness in lower legs
  • A sore or tender lump near a varicose vein
  • Swelling in the lower legs, especially feet or ankles
  • Sudden swelling or pain in the legs
  • Bleeding or clotting in the skin near the varicose vein
  • Open sores or eczema near the varicose vein
  • Any other uncomfortable symptoms that concern you

Varicose veins are unsightly and may affect your self-confidence. You may also wish to treat varicose veins to improve the appearance of your legs. 

Find a Vein Specialist Near You

If you have varicose veins, you may want to get them treated to get rid of painful symptoms. You may even want to get them treated to avoid complications. For this, you’ll need a vein specialist.

Find yourself a suitable vein specialist in your locality using My Vein Treatment’s vein specialist locator tool. Consult a qualified vein specialist near you. They’ll help you understand the severity of your vein problems and find the best treatment options for you. You can finally get rid of the discomfort and those unsightly varicose veins for a pain-free and confident life.


  1. Circulation: “ Varicose Veins.”
  2. Cleveland Clinic: “ Varicose & Spider Veins.”
  3. Cleveland Clinic: “ Varicose & Spider Veins.”
  4. Access Medicine: “ 12-13: Varicose Veins.”
  5. Circulation: “ Varicose Veins.”
  6. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: “ Varicose Veins.”
  7. Pregnancy, Birth and Baby: “ Varicose veins.”
  8. Johns Hopkins Medicine: “ Venous Ulcers.”
  9. NHS: “ Varicose Eczema.”
  10. Cleveland Clinic: “ Superficial Thrombophlebitis.”
  11. Cleveland Clinic: “ Varicose & Spider Veins.”
  12. JAMA: “ Association of Varicose Veins With Incident Venous Thromboembolism and Peripheral Artery Disease.”

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