Varicose Veins: Understanding and Managing the Condition

Varicose veins are enlarged, swollen, and twisting veins, often appearing blue or dark purple. They usually occur in the legs, particularly in the calves. They’re caused by malfunctioning valves in the veins that allow blood to flow backward and pool, causing the veins to expand. Although varicose veins can be painful and unattractive, they usually don’t pose a severe health risk. However, they can be a sign of a higher risk for other circulatory problems.



Varicose veins are often easy to see, especially when you’re standing up. Symptoms may include:

  1. Veins that are dark purple or blue in color: The veins may appear twisted and bulging, like cords on your legs.
  2. Pain and discomfort: This may include aching, burning, or throbbing in the legs.
  3. Swelling in the lower legs: Particularly after extended periods of standing.
  4. Itching around one or more of your veins: This can be particularly troubling and can occur on lower legs or ankles.
  5. Bleeding from varicose veins: In severe cases.
  6. Ulceration: In extreme cases, painful ulcers may form near the ankle.


Varicose veins occur when the small valves inside the veins stop working properly. Healthy veins have one-way valves that prevent blood from flowing backward. When these valves become damaged or weakened, blood can flow backward and pool in the vein, causing it to stretch and twist.

Risk Factors

Certain factors increase the risk of developing varicose veins:

  1. Age: The risk increases with age, due to wear and tear on the valves in the veins.
  2. Sex: Women are more likely to develop varicose veins due to hormonal changes that relax the vein walls.
  3. Genetics: If other family members have had varicose veins, there’s a higher chance you’ll also have them.
  4. Obesity: Extra weight puts more pressure on the veins.
  5. Standing or sitting for long periods: This forces the veins to work harder to pump blood to the heart.

How to Avoid It

Preventing varicose veins isn’t always possible, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:

  1. Exercise: Encourage blood flow in your legs by walking, cycling, or swimming.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight: Extra weight puts additional pressure on your veins.
  3. Elevate your legs: When resting, raise your legs above the level of your heart.
  4. Avoid prolonged standing or sitting: Change your position frequently to encourage blood flow.
  5. Wear compression stockings: These can help improve blood flow and reduce pain and swelling.

When to See the Doctor

While varicose veins are usually not a serious condition, it’s a good idea to see a doctor if:

  1. The veins are causing pain or discomfort
  2. The veins are causing skin problems, such as rashes, redness, or sores
  3. You have concerns about the appearance of the veins

Treatment Options

  1. Self-care: Such as exercising, losing weight, elevating the legs, or wearing compression stockings.
  2. Sclerotherapy: A solution is injected directly into the vein, causing the vein to scar and close.
  3. Laser treatments: Strong bursts of light are applied to the vein, making it slowly fade and disappear.
  4. Catheter-assisted procedures: A thin tube (catheter) is inserted into the vein and then heated, causing the vein to collapse and seal shut as the catheter is removed.
  5. Vein stripping: Removing long veins through small incisions.
  6. Endoscopic vein surgery: Small incisions are made to insert a thin video camera into the leg to visualize and close varicose veins and then remove them.


Hormonal Factors

Varicose veins are more common in women, and hormonal factors play a role in their development. The changes in hormones during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, as well as hormone treatments like birth control pills, may increase the risk of varicose veins.


During pregnancy, the volume of blood in the body increases, but the flow of blood from the legs to the pelvis decreases. This change in circulation is designed to support the growing fetus but can also result in the unfortunate side effect of enlarged veins in the legs. Varicose veins that develop during pregnancy typically improve within three to 12 months following delivery.

Other Complications

Although rare, varicose veins can sometimes lead to other complications. These may include:

  1. Thrombophlebitis: Inflammation of a vein due to a blood clot.
  2. Superficial thrombophlebitis: Inflammation of veins close to the surface of the skin.
  3. Venous eczema or stasis dermatitis: Skin over varicose veins becomes dry, itchy, and discolored.
  4. Lipodermatosclerosis: Hardening of the fat layer beneath the skin, making the skin above the ankles become red, tight, and shiny.
  5. Venous ulcers: Long-lasting high blood pressure in the veins and a lack of movement can cause ulcers to form on the skin.

Diagnosis Methods

A physical examination, typically with you standing, is often enough for your doctor to diagnose varicose veins. However, to confirm a diagnosis and to check for any blockages or blood clots, your doctor might suggest:

  1. Doppler test: A type of ultrasound that checks the direction of blood flow in the veins.
  2. Color duplex ultrasound scan: This test provides color images of the structure of veins, which can highlight any blood clots.

Alternative Therapies

Some people find alternative therapies helpful for managing the symptoms of varicose veins. These may include:

  1. Acupuncture: Some people find that acupuncture can help relieve the pain associated with varicose veins.
  2. Chiropractic: Adjustments and manipulations may help improve circulation.
  3. Herbal Remedies: Some herbs may be helpful in reducing the symptoms of varicose veins. Horse chestnut, grape (leaves, sap, seed, and fruit), butcher’s broom, and gotu kola may be beneficial. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new herbal remedy.

Cosmetic Concerns

Although varicose veins are a medical condition, many people seek treatment for cosmetic reasons. If you’re unhappy with the appearance of your legs due to varicose veins, consult a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon for treatment options.

Support Groups

Having varicose veins can be stressful and upsetting. Joining a support group, either online or in your community, can help you connect with people who understand your experiences.

In conclusion, Varicose veins are a common condition that can cause pain, discomfort, and self-consciousness. While they’re usually not a severe health concern, it’s essential to understand the risk factors and steps you can take to prevent them. If you’re concerned about varicose veins, consult with a healthcare professional to explore the treatment options available to improve your comfort and quality of life.



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American Falls


Idaho Falls


Contact Information

(208) 233-2273

(208) 233-2490


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