When Do Varicose Veins Become a Concern?


Table of Contents

  • What Causes Varicose Veins?
  • Varicose Vein Symptoms
  • Can Varicose Veins Harm Your Health?
  • How to Find Help for Your Varicose Veins

Sure, you hate the way they look. They may even affect your wardrobe, keeping you from wearing shorts or capris in warm weather. But varicose veins are more than a cosmetic issue or a wardrobe challenge. They can be something to be genuinely concerned about. There are many reasons other than vanity to have your varicose veins looked at. Under certain circumstances, varicose veins can be an actual medical issue.

Varicose veins are not the same as spider veins, those networks of tiny veins that are sometimes visible under the skin. Spider veins aren’t a health issue, although you may not like the way they look. Varicose veins bulge. You can feel them as well as see them. They can occur in several parts of the body, but they are most noticeable and troublesome in the legs.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

Veins carry blood back to your heart after it has done its job of carrying oxygen to the cells. As the blood gets farther away from your heart, it’s not under as much pressure. Your veins use little valves to keep the slower-moving blood from backing up. When those valves weaken, it’s easy for the blood to accumulate. The walls of veins aren’t as thick as the walls of arteries, so the accumulated blood can push out the walls of the veins, creating varicose veins.

Not everyone gets varicose veins. You may have a family tendency to have vein problems, or your career field may require a lot of standing. Pregnancies also put stress on the veins, both from the weight of the baby and from the larger volume of blood that you have when you are pregnant. The body doesn’t always fully recover from that stress, especially if you have multiple pregnancies.

Varicose Vein Symptoms

You may be able to tell that you have varicose veins by looking at your legs. You may see purplish veins that bulge, especially when you stand for a few minutes. Sometimes the veins will have a twisted appearance.

Varicose veins can cause discomfort or pain. For example, you may experience heavy legs that make it hard to stay active during the day and that may disturb your sleep at night. You may experience throbbing or burning pain in your legs. Your symptoms may be worse if you sit or stand for a long time.

Doctors who specialize in treating varicose veins use ultrasound to learn more about your veins. They can see the structure of your blood vessels and check the blood flow in your legs.

Vein specialist performing a vascular ultrasound.

Can Varicose Veins Harm Your Health?

Most varicose veins never become a health problem, but some of them do. Here are some of the conditions that are associated with varicose veins:

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Perhaps you have heard that long airplane rides can cause blood clots. This type of blood clot, called deep vein thrombosis, can be dangerous if the clot breaks loose and goes to the lungs. While varicose veins do not cause DVT, you are statistically more prone to experiencing it if you have them.

You don’t have to be traveling to experience DVT. If you are less mobile than usual due to illness or surgery, you might be at risk. Cancer and cancer treatments are also risk factors. If you have varicose veins, you are at greater risk of DVT, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The most common symptom of DVT is swelling in one calf. That could be the only symptom you have. Others that you might experience include pain, redness, or warmth in the area. Often the pain will not be sharp — it will be more of an achy feeling. If you experience these symptoms, see your doctor.

Superficial Vein Thrombosis (SVT)

If a clot occurs in a vein close to the skin, it is called superficial thrombosis (SVT) or superficial thrombophlebitis. Varicose veins are also a risk factor for SVT, though this condition is usually considered less serious than DVT.

SVT is often more painful than DVT. The symptoms are similar, but because SVT occurs near the skin, you can sometimes feel the vein that contains the clot. It may bulge more than usual and feel hard. Redness and tenderness may also be present. If swelling occurs, it is usually local rather than being in the whole calf area.

Venous Ulcers

When you have varicose veins, blood can pool in the lower part of the leg. Any break in the skin can lead to a sore that is slow to heal. These sores, called venous ulcers, are especially common on the ankles. You might have a brownish spot or an itchy patch on the skin before you develop an actual ulcer. Your skin may burn or itch around the ulcer.

Venous ulcers are hard to heal because of poor circulation in the area. They can also get infected. You should see your doctor if you suspect you have a venous ulcer, especially if you have diabetes. People with diabetes often heal slowly and are more at risk of developing complications from any type of sore.


When you have enlarged veins close to the skin, they may break and bleed, especially if you bump them against something. Although the bleeding is not usually serious, any wound is a place where germs can enter the body.

If your varicose veins are decreasing your quality of life, or if you are concerned about your varicose veins for any other reason, you should consider talking to a vein specialist.

How to Find Help for Your Varicose Veins

  • Most of us know where to get our oil changed or which restaurant serves the best burger. We’re not so well-informed when it comes to finding help for our health issues. If you have varicose veins and are unsure where to go for guidance, My Vein Treatment can help.

Our vein specialist locator tool allows you to find a vein specialist close to your home who is knowledgeable about varicose veins and qualified to treat them. If you decide you no longer want to experience the pain of varicose veins, or if you are worried about risks to your health, give our locator tool a try.

Find a vein specialist