Varicose veins most often develop in the lower legs and do not always cause symptoms. When symptoms do develop, they may include pain and a feeling of heaviness in the legs. Pain is usually not severe unless the veins are large and bulging. Symptoms of varicose veins may also include a feeling of hardness in the vein.
In some people, the lower legs may also burn or cramp. Varicose vein pain is often worse after sitting for a long time. Conditions that can increase symptoms of varicose veins include pregnancy and trauma to the legs. Aging may also increase the likelihood of symptoms of varicose veins.
Although severe symptoms and complications of varicose veins are not common, they can develop. Blood clots may form in the vein, which can cause swelling in the leg, and need to be evaluated by a physician. If the vein becomes extremely enlarged, in can eventually rupture. Chronic inflammation in the varicose vein may also develop.
Depending on the severity of symptoms of varicose veins, treatment may be recommended. Since veins are often dark purple and bulging, some people may seek treatment mainly for cosmetic reasons. The type of treatment recommended will likely depend on the size of the vein.
There are certain things an individual can do at home to treat symptoms of varicose veins, or at least try to prevent them from becoming worse. Elevating the legs frequently when possible and avoiding crossing them when sitting can help improve circulation and may help. Maintaining a healthy weight also helps reduce the risk of varicose veins becoming worse. Limiting alcohol, which can dilate blood vessels and cause them to bulge, may help reduce the chances of developing varicose veins.
Sclerotherapy for varicose veins may be effective in some cases. Sclerotherapy is most often used on people with small- or medium-size varicose veins. During the outpatient procedure, a chemical is injected into the vein. This causes scarring of the vein and decreases the size of the varicose vein. It may take more than one injection, depending on the size of the vein being treated.
Laser ablation for varicose veins may also be done on small varicose veins. During the procedure, light energy is directed at the vein, causing the vein to fade. This is considered a noninvasive procedure because an injection is not needed and the skin is not cut. Vein stripping is also another treatment for varicose veins. This procedure involves making incisions in the legs. The vein is than pulled out of one of the incisions.