Varicose veins are swollen, twisted blood vessels that bulge just under your skin’s surface. These blue or purple bulges usually appear in your legs, feet and ankles. They can be painful or itchy. Spider veins, which may surround varicose veins, are smaller red or purple lines that appear close to your skin’s surface.
Although they can be unsightly and uncomfortable, varicose veins aren’t dangerous for most people. In some cases, severe varicose veins can lead to serious health problems, such as blood clots. You can relieve most varicose vein symptoms at home or your healthcare provider can treat them with injections, laser therapy or surgery.
Varicose veins and spider veins are both types of venous disease, but they look different. Spider veins are smaller and thinner than varicose veins. They look like red or blue spider webs or branches of a tree, and they are close to the skin’s surface.
Spider veins aren’t usually painful. They can appear anywhere on your body, most often behind your knee, on your feet or on your face. Varicose veins usually appear on your feet and legs.
Varicose veins occur when veins aren’t functioning properly. Veins have one-way valves that prevent blood from flowing backward. When these valves fail, blood begins to collect in the veins rather than continuing toward your heart. The veins then enlarge. Varicose veins often affect the legs. The veins there are the farthest from your heart, and gravity makes it harder for the blood to flow upward.
Some potential causes for varicose veins include:
The following are the most common symptoms of varicose veins. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Severe varicose veins may eventually produce long-term mild swelling that can result in more serious skin and tissue problems. These include ulcers and nonhealing sores.
The symptoms of varicose veins may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Varicose veins are close to the surface of your skin and easy to see. Healthcare providers can diagnose the condition during a physical examination. They’ll feel your veins and examine them while you’re sitting and standing. In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, diagnostic procedures for varicose veins may include:
Note: These evaluations are for involvement of a single extremity. If more than one extremity is involved, evaluate each extremity separately and combine (under §4.25), using the bilateral factor (§4.26), if applicable.
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