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Varicose veins symptoms

Symptoms and complications of varicose veins


Varicose veins are swollen, stretched or damaged veins and may be found in practically any part of the body. However, the term usually refers to varicose veins in the calf and thigh where they are most commonly found. This page describes the symptoms and complications of varicose veins in the legs.

It has been estimated that over 30% of adults will experience the symptoms of varicose veins at one point in their lives. Symptoms arise as a result of disturbance to the normal flow of blood from the legs back to the heart, as stretching of the vein leads to leakage of the small valves found within veins and a backflow of blood towards the feet. Follow the link for more information on causes of varicose veins.

Many people with varicose veins do not experience symptoms. However, those who do will want to know what they can do, and may wish to learn more about the varicose veins treatments available to them, including the use of herbal medicines. In addition, there are a few lifestyle tips which may be helpful.

Complications of varicose veins are rarely seen, but if these are noticed, it is important that a doctor is consulted.

Varicose veins symptoms

At the early stages, varicose veins may not give rise to any symptoms apart from a vein which is visible or more prominent. One of the first symptoms of varicose veins is a sensation of heaviness, tiredness or aching in the legs. These symptoms are often worse when you have been on your feet for a while, when the weather Is hot or when you have been on a long-haul flight.

Symptoms of varicose veins are:

  • Painful, aching legs, especially the calves
  • Heaviness in the legs
  • Unexplained feelings of tiredness in the legs
  • Swelling of your ankles and feet especially at the end of the day
  • Mild itching of the skin
  • Throbbing or cramping in your calves or legs, on sudden movement or at night
  • Restless legs
  • The appearance of small ‘snake-like’ veins known as ‘spider veins’ known as telangiectasia

Complications of varicose veins

The majority of people with varicose veins do not experience any complications. They are more likely to be seen if the problem is longstanding.

Varicose vein complications occur as a result of prolonged or increased pressure within the affected vein. This damages smaller blood vessels as well as the surrounding tissue and leads to:

  • Inflammation of the vein, also known as phlebitis. Symptoms of an inflamed varicose vein are redness, heat in the affected area as well as pain
  • Varicose eczema. This is caused by a leakage of blood from the varicose vein into the surrounding tissue - cells in the area become damaged leading to inflammation. Symptoms of varicose eczema are a scaly or flaky skin, swelling, tenderness, itching and darkening of the skin
  • Varicose ulcers. This is an open wound or sore in the skin and is also known as a ‘venous ulcer’. Leakage of blood and fluid from the vein giving rise to varicose eczema may, if longstanding, damage the skin cells to the extent that the skin ‘breaks down’, leading to the formation of a varicose ulcer
  • Bleeding. On rare occasions, varicose veins may bleed. This may result from a bump on the edge of your coffee table or similar knock, but sometimes, no causative injury can be identified. If this happens to you, act quickly. Lie down and raise your leg as high as you can – resting it on a table top or back of a chair can help. Apply firm pressure to the bleeding vein using a clean tea towel or dressing. These actions will be easier if there is someone else around to help you. If bleeding is heavy or does not stop easily, call your doctor or an ambulance.

If you notice any symptoms pointing to complications of varicose veins, seek the advice of your doctor.



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