Varicose veins affect more than 23% of adults. In the United States, about 1 in 4 adults have them. These veins are enlarged, swollen, and dark colored. They usually show up on the legs, often on the inside or the back of the knee.

Varicose veins happen when the valves in the veins don’t work well. This allows blood to flow the wrong way or get stuck. They might cause aching, swelling, or discomfort. But, not everyone needs treatment for varicose veins.

In this article, we’re going to discuss what happens when varicose veins swell up, the treatments and management tips that you can do for your swollen veins.

What are Swollen Varicose Veins?

Swollen varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins that are visible just under the surface of the skin, often appearing as blue or dark purple. They most commonly occur in the legs and feet. Varicose veins develop when the valves within the veins that regulate blood flow become weak or damaged. This can cause blood to pool in the veins, making them swell and become more pronounced.

Definition and Description

Varicose veins look like large, twisted bumps under the skin, mainly on the legs. Their main cause is weakened valves in the veins. This allows blood to move backward and collect in the veins.

Appearance and Symptoms

These veins look swollen, twisted, and can be blue, purple, or like your skin. Along with their appearance, they can cause pain and discomfort. You might feel your legs are achy, heavy, or burn. You could also get muscle cramps and notice swelling. Varicose veins might make you itch, change your skin’s color, or give you spider veins too.

Causes of Swollen Varicose Veins

Varicose veins happen due to weak or damaged valves. These veins let blood flow back and pool up. This makes the veins get larger and swell. Risk factors like family history and obesity can squeeze the veins more.

Weak or Damaged Vein Valves

When the valves inside your veins get weak or hurt, problems start. Normally, these valves keep blood moving forward. But if they don’t work right, blood stays and the veins swell and turn.

Risk Factors

Family history and being overweight boost your risks. Also, growing older, being female, having been pregnant, and spending a lot of time sitting or standing are factors. Changes in hormones during big life stages like pregnancy or menopause can make it more likely to get varicose veins.

Complications of Swollen Varicose Veins

Varicose veins aren’t usually a big health issue, but they can cause problems if not treated. For example, ulcers might form near these veins, usually around the ankles. Blood clots are also a risk, and they could be very dangerous. If your varicose veins burst, it can even lead to bleeding. Over time, they might make your legs swell up too. 

Let’s take a closer look at the possible complications of swollen varicose veins.


Sometimes, varicose veins can cause ulcers to form by the ankles. These sores are very painful and might not heal on their own. They often need a doctor’s help to get better.

Blood Clots

Varicose veins increase your risk of getting blood clots. These clots can travel to your lungs and cause serious problems. It leads to conditions like DVT or, if in the lungs, a pulmonary embolism.


If your varicose veins burst, bleeding can occur. Obviously, this is a dangerous situation that demands quick medical care.

Leg Swelling

Over time, if you have varicose veins, your legs can swell up. This swelling comes from blood not circulating properly and can make your legs hurt even more.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Doctors usually diagnose varicose veins with a physical exam. This may include a venous Doppler ultrasound test on the leg. It checks how blood moves through the veins. Treatment choices include self-care, wearing compression stockings, or opting for surgery or procedures.

Compression Stockings

First, doctors often suggest wearing compression stockings for varicose veins. These socks help blood flow better and ease symptoms. They press gently on the legs, which helps blood circulate well and stops it from gathering in the veins.


If varicose veins are bad, doctors might do sclerotherapy. They inject a chemical into the veins to make them close. This reduces how the veins look and makes them healthier.

Radiofrequency Ablation

Another choice is radiofrequency ablation. It uses heat to seal off the problem veins. It’s an option instead of surgery and is less traumatic.

Endovenous Laser Treatment

Endovenous laser treatment is like ablation but uses a laser. It destroys and shuts the problematic veins. Doctors often recommend this for severe or stubborn varicose veins.

Surgical Options

In worst-case scenarios, surgery may be necessary. This includes ligation, vein stripping, or ambulatory phlebectomy. These surgeries aim to remove or close off damaged veins for better blood flow and symptom relief.

Seeing a specialist is crucial for the best treatment plan. They might be a phlebologist, vascular surgeon, dermatologist, or dermatology surgeon. It’s also wise to look into studies and reports on treatment success, risks, costs, and results.

Swollen Varicose Veins Prevention

Some things leading to varicose veins, like age and genes, are out of our hands. But, we can do a lot to stop or slow down this condition. 

Exercise and Movement

Getting regular exercise can help boost blood flow and tone muscles. This is great for avoiding varicose veins. Make sure to do activities that get your blood moving. Things like walking, swimming, and gentle aerobics are highly recommended. 

Healthy Diet

Eating a healthy diet that’s low in salt and high in fiber is crucial. Add more fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains to your meals. This improves the health of your veins and cuts the chance of varicose veins.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Staying at a healthy weight takes the pressure off your veins. It also lessens the risk of varicose veins. A balanced diet and regular exercise like mentioned above are powerful tools. They effectively help avoid varicose veins.

Living with Swollen Varicose Veins

compression stockings

Swollen varicose veins are not easy to live with. But, there are ways to ease the discomfort. Discover some effective ways to manage your swollen veins.

Compression Stockings

These stockings put light pressure on your legs. This pressure pushes the blood back up, away from the feet. This reduces the look and feel of varicose veins. So, wearing these stockings can make your legs feel better.

Leg Elevation

Elevating your legs is also great for swollen varicose veins. Put your legs up higher than your heart. This helps stop the swelling and improves how blood flows. It can make your legs feel less heavy and painful.

Over-the-Counter Treatments

There are also things you can buy to help. Creams and ointments can be put on the skin. They might not cure the veins, but they do help with itching and pain. They work well with other treatments.

Using a mix of these methods helps a lot. It can improve your leg health and comfort.

Let’s Help You Manage Your Swollen Veins

Swollen varicose veins are a common issue that many find uncomfortable. There are ways to treat and prevent them. Understanding their causes and risks is key.

Understanding varicose veins leads to taking care of our vein health. With proper attention, we can overcome the hurdles they bring and lead a more comfortable life. At VISP, we can help diagnose and treat your swollen veins. Our effective treatment methods can help you manage your swollen veins and have a better quality of life. Contact us today!

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Vascular & Interventional Specialists of Prescott was formed in 2010 by a group of subspecialty radiologists that perform numerous minimally-invasive, low-risk procedures using the tools of our trade for guidance—x-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, and MRI. The team’s goal is to educate patients and medical communities, while also providing safe and compassionate health care, with rapid recovery times and low risk of complications.