A vein is a vessel that returns unoxygenated blood from the capillaries (small vessels) to the heart. Veins that are swollen are called varicose veins. Most commonly found on the legs or feet, varicose veins are blue or purple in color and are often enlarged or twisted. Varicose veins can often be seen under the surface of your skin, but there are larger forms that cannot be seen, such as hemorrhoids. Left untreated, varicose veins can become painful, cause swelling and may lead to more serious conditions.
Why Choose The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center?
Since The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is an academic medical center, our patients benefit from innovative research, a depth of medical expertise and the newest technologies and treatment techniques available.
We offer all available minimally invasive techniques for treatment of varicose veins, including endovenous laser therapy, radiofrequency ablation, sclerotherapy, and also phlebectomy. We perform these procedures on many patients in our outpatient clinic, allowing for convenience, a quick visit, and short recovery time.
What Is a Varicose Vein?
Varicose veins are swollen veins that sometimes look like cords. They often appear on the legs and feet but can appear on the vagina and buttocks during pregnancy. Some are visible through the skin, while others are not as easy to detect.
Varicose veins develop over time. If left untreated, they can lead to pain and swelling in the affected area and skin changes, such as rash and lesions. Varicose veins can also lead to more serious conditions, such as venous stasis (swelling of feet, ankles and legs that worsen with leg elevation) or deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in a deep vein). Varicose veins are more common in people over the age of 50 and affect women more than men.
Symptoms of varicose veins include:
- Heavy, tired or restless legs that worsen when standing or sitting for long periods of time
- Night leg cramps or aches
- Skin changes on your legs, including discoloration or sores
- Jagged veins or veins that appear in a cluster
You should consult your doctor if you notice the veins have become red or tender to the touch, if you develop skin changes or if one of your veins begins to bleed. Any symptom that interferes with your everyday life should be evaluated.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are caused by damaged valves in the veins. When you are in an upright position, the blood in your veins has to travel upwards, against gravity, toward your heart. Veins carry blood to the heart through a series of valves that open to push blood up toward the heart. When these valves become impaired or weakened, blood flows downward and pools, causing the veins to enlarge.
Varicose veins most often appear in the legs due to increased blood pressure inside the superficial veins. The veins in your legs must work extra hard to push blood up toward the heart. This increased blood pressure in addition to other risk factors causes veins to weaken and become damaged.
Risk factors that contribute to varicose veins are:
- Age older than 50
- Family history of vein problems
- Hormone changes
- Overweight or obesity
- Sedentary lifestyle
Many of these risk factors can be reduced or eliminated by changing your lifestyle.