Leg veins have a difficult task propelling blood against gravity and resistance from your bodyweight, back to your heart. They rely on muscle contraction and expansion to push the blood, while the valves prevent the backflow of blood. Varicose veins symptoms may start to appear with age.
The valves can weaken and stop functioning properly. This may in turn cause the blood to flow backwards, pool in the superficial veins – those closer to the surface of the skin – and make those blood vessels bigger.
Varicose Veins Symptoms
If the affected veins do not cause any pain or discomfort, you can tell that they’re varicose veins if:
- They appear dark blue or purple in color
- They are bulging and twisted – appear like cords running on the surface of your legs
In some cases, varicose veins may cause discomfort in the form of:
- Itching around the veins
- Swelling and throbbing, burning, muscle cramping in the lower legs
- Heavy feeling in the legs – achy
- Increased pain after prolonged sitting or standing
- Red skin discoloration with a throbbing cord inside the vein
- Minor bleeding from the varicose veins – when they burst
- Vein hardening, color changes, and skin inflammation or ulcers around the ankle, all of which indicate a more serious vascular disease
Varicose veins can also cause complications. Though very rare, you can experience:
- Blood clots – In very rare cases, the veins deep inside your legs can also become enlarged, causing blood clots that make the leg swell significantly. This condition is medically referred to as deep venous thrombosis and needs immediate medical attention.
- Ulcers – Prolonged fluid buildup in the tissues near varicose veins around the ankles, due to the increased blood pressure within affected veins, can cause very painful ulcers to form. Ulcers are usually preceded by a discolored spot on your skin, at which point you should seek immediate attention.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Although you cannot completely keep varicose veins from forming, those at high risk – due to family history, age, obesity, or jobs that involve extended sitting or standing – can reduce the risk by improving circulation through exercising, adjusting your sitting and standing position regularly, elevating your legs when sitting, and wearing compression stockings. If self-care doesn’t help, you should see a doctor.