Could your leg pain be varicose veins?

Posted by Christopher Huiras, M.D.
March 06, 2015

Christopher Huiras MDIf you’ve been feeling an achy, heavy feeling or a burning sensation in your legs, it may be symptoms of varicose veins. Varicose veins are enlarged veins that often develop as we age. When we get older, it can be more difficult for our blood to circulate properly. It’s important to note that for most people, varicose veins are simply a cosmetic concern, but for others, varicose veins may lead to more serious health issues — such ulcers or blood clots.

Varicose veins are usually dark purple or blue-colored and tend to appear twisted or bulging.

Symptoms of varicose veins

  • Muscle cramping and swelling in your lower legs
  • Worsened pain after sitting or standing for a long time
  • Itching around one or more of your veins
  • Skin ulcers near your ankle

Self-care options to stop varicose veins from worsening

  • Exercising
  • Losing weight
  • Wearing looser clothes
  • Elevating your legs
  • Avoiding sitting or standing for long periods of time
Varicose Veins_small

Purchasing compression stockings from your local pharmacy or medical supply store is often the first approach your health care team will suggest before trying other treatment options. Compression stockings are worn all day and help to circulate blood flow in your legs.

Alternative treatments

If these self-care options don’t help to ease your pain, your health care team may suggest other options:

Sclerotherapy is a procedure where a health care provider injects varicose veins with a solution that scars and closes the veins.

Radiofrequency ablation is another option that is appealing to patients who would like to avoid incisions or needles.

Catheter-assisted procedures are often used for closing larger veins. The procedure includes heating up the tip of the catheter, which then destroys the vein by causing it to collapse and close.

Vein stripping is another treatment method. This includes removing a long vein through small incisions.

Ambulatory phlebectomy is a procedure available where your health care provider uses tiny punctures to remove small veins.

Endoscopic vein surgery is usually used for advanced cases where leg ulcers are present.

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Comments (8)

Wow, thank you so much for writing! My dad has been mentioning that he's got a couple of those symptoms and we had no idea what it could be. We'll have to look into it, and see if it is varicose veins. I am really glad I read this!

Jack Moore - 10/15/2015

I really liked how you emphasized that varicose veins may lead to serious health issues such as ulcers or blood clots. I always thought this treatment was just a cosmetic concern. My Grandma as she has gotten older has had enlarged veins causing her daily burning sensation. How long should we elevate our legs for in order to help blood circulation?

Breck Lewis - 10/08/2015

These seem like interesting treatments for varicose veins. Using a heated catheter to make veins collapse and close seems like a treatment that I would like to know more about. Does the catheter affect any smaller surrounding veins, and how would that affect my legs? I want to make sure that it only gets rid of my varicose veins instead of the smaller ones that aren't a problem. - 09/21/2015

Vericose veins can be a nasty thing. They're also psychologically treacherous. It feels a little bit like you're becoming some kind of villain, which is cool if you're anticipating Halloween or some kind of costume-gathering, but in day to day life, it's not exactly preferable.

Steven Harrison - 08/21/2015

Hello Mia and Rachelle. Here is more information on varicose veins:

Site Administrator - 07/13/2015

My grandma has problems with varicose veins. Her doctor said it's because she has a lack of exercise, but because she is old she is unable to exercise well. She elevates her legs and wears loose clothing like you suggest, but she is still in pain. Should she visit a vein clinic? 

Rachelle Reeves - 07/07/2015

My mother has suffered from vericose veins for some time now. We want to try to help her control the issue before it gets worse. We didn't know that wearing looser clothes could actually help her symptoms. We'll make sure that we try a few of your tips to see if they help her.

Jamarcus Dantley - 05/21/2015

Thanks for the information. I've actually been wondering if I have something like varicose veins in my hands. If that's the case, I should probably get it looked at as soon as possible. I'm going to make sure I follow your tip about elevating my legs more often, and also by exercising a bit more. Do you have any other tips for me?

Mia Boyd - 05/18/2015

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