Varicose Veins

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

  • Aching heavy legs (usually worse at night)
  • Itching
  • Darkening of skin
  • Swelling of ankles
  • Night cramps

What are the Veins you can see in your legs?

The veins that you can see in your legs often come in two types. Small veins in the Skin of 1mm diameter (a bit bigger than a strand of hair) are called thread veins. Larger, lumpy and irregularly shaped veins are called varicose veins. They are usually caused by problems in the veins in the legs under the skin that you cannot see. Both kinds can cause pain and be embarrassing and unsightly. An amazing fact is that around 25% of both sexes develop varicose veins to some extent.

Varicose veins

Normal vein (left) versus a varicose vein (right). You can see how the faulty valves prevent proper blood flow.

Why do Varicose Veins Occur?

Blood normally flows through the deeper leg veins up the leg towards the heart. This flow is controlled by a one-way system of valves, which prevent the blood from flowing in the wrong direction,back down the leg. Varicose veins occur when these valves in the veins inside your leg fail as illustrated here. This allows blood to flow in the wrong direction causing pressure on the veins closer to the skin. These then swell, can become painful, and are the large lumpy irregular veins that you see.

What happens if I leave them?

It is unlikely your visible veins will disappear, and more likely that these will increase in size over the years. Potential complications include varicose eczema,permanent staining of the skin,painful phlebitisbleeding, and more rarely but more seriously skin breakdown(ulceration).