Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are swollen, bulging and distorted veins. They’re bluish green or colorless in appearance and they’re often unsightly. They typically range from one to two millimeters (approximately 0.08 inch) in diameter. They’re commonly found on the insides of the legs, extending from the groin to the ankle, but they can occur in any other part of the body. Varicose veins can be present as hemorrhoids (around the anus).

For some people, varicose veins show no symptoms and are merely a cosmetic concern. For others, varicose veins may be the source of pain and discomfort. While varicose veins are not a serious problem, they may lead to serious cardiovascular problems, such as deep vein thrombosis.

Varicose VeinsHow Do Varicose Veins Occur?

Varicose veins occur as a result of venous insufficiency in the superficial veins. Veins have valves that help transport blood back to the heart by allowing blood to flow in one direction only. If the valves fail to function properly, blood can begin to accumulate in the veins.

Because veins, unlike arteries, have thin walls, the pressure from the accumulation of blood results in the widening of veins and the development of the condition.

Facts and Figures about Varicose Veins

  • Varicose veins affects approximately 40 million Americans.
  • Women are twice as likely as men to be sufferers.
  • Approximately 31 percent of women and 17 percent of men are affected.
  • The condition becomes more prevalent with increasing age.
  • The condition is common (but often temporary) during pregnancy.

Did You Know . . .

The term “varicose” is derived from the Latin varix-icis, meaning “twisted” or “distorted.”

Spider Veins (Telangiectasia) vs. Varicose Veins

The “spider” description is something of a misnomer because unlike larger, dilated varicose veins, telangiectasia are in fact enlarged capillaries.

Spider veins have a far less gnarled appearance. Red or blue in color, they resemble a spider’s web on the surface of the skin and can appear anywhere on the body, but most commonly on the face or legs.

Often, venous insufficiency may result in a person suffering from both conditions. However, significant circulation problems are present only in rare cases. Therefore, treatment is generally employed simply to relieve symptoms or for cosmetic reasons.