Varicose Veins

The Vein Center at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center is committed to making your legs look and feel better. Our board-certified vascular surgeons have unmatched experience in treating varicose veins. They have earned national recognition for their expertise in treating varicose veins.

It’s important to have your varicose veins examined by a vascular surgeon to determine the severity and necessary treatment. If left untreated, varicose veins can lead to serious health problems. Learn more about treatment options for varicose veins.

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins usually look like bulging, bluish cords running just below the surface of your skin. They are very common, affecting about 23% of all Americans. Although women are two times as likely to develop varicose veins, both men and women can develop them. They can occur in any age group, starting in adolescence.

Age, weight gain, pregnancy, long periods of sitting or standing and a family history of varicose veins are all risk factors for this disease. When inflamed, they can affect blood circulation and create other health problems. Untreated varicose veins can also lead to skin damage including darkening of the skin or even ulcers. 

What Causes Varicose Veins?

Veins in the legs help return the bluish, oxygen-poor blood to the heart. Veins have valves that work to keep blood flowing in the right direction during this process. When leg muscles contract to help move blood through your veins, the valves open. When your legs relax, the valves close. This prevents blood from flowing in the wrong direction.

When you sit or stand, especially for a long time, blood in your leg veins can pool and the pressure in your veins can increase. Surface level veins, or superficial veins, can become dilated due to this pressure. This can weaken the walls of your veins and damage the valves. As a result, damaged valves allow blood to flow in reverse, leading to a condition known as venous reflex disease. Often, but not always, the blood then backs up into large branches of superficial veins, resulting in visible varicose veins.

Varicose Vein Symptoms

Some patients with varicose veins claim to have no symptoms. This is because problems associated with varicose veins can come on slowly over many years and patients become used to them. Other patients experience a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Veins protruding above the surface of the skin
  • Swelling in the ankle area
  • Achy legs
  • Restless legs
  • Leg fatigue or heaviness 
  • Night leg cramps

Standing or sitting for long periods of time can make the symptoms worse. Less often, skin on the lower part of the legs can darken, become irritated or form sores.  Even if the sores heal, they tend to return unless the varicose veins are properly treated.

Occasionally, the stagnant blood in larger surface varicose veins can clot; this is called superficial phlebitis. If you have varicose veins, you could have an increased chance of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT causes sudden, severe leg swelling and is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Contact Us

To make an appointment with a Washington University vein specialists at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call [Dynamic_Phone_Number].

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