Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins. Any superficial vein may become varicosed, but the veins most commonly affected are those in your legs. That's because standing and walking upright increases the pressure in the veins of your lower body. For many people, varicose veins and spider veins — a common, mild variation of varicose veins — are simply a cosmetic concern. For other people, varicose veins can cause aching pain and discomfort. Sometimes varicose veins lead to more-serious problems.
Varicose veins may not cause any pain. Signs you may have varicose veins include: • Veins that are dark purple or blue in color, Veins that appear twisted and bulging; they are often like cords on your legs When painful signs and symptoms occur, they may include: • An achy or heavy feeling in your legs • Burning, throbbing, 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 discoloration around a varicose vein Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but they're smaller. Spider veins are found closer to the skin's surface and are often red or blue. Spider veins occur on the legs, but can also be found on the face. They vary in size and often look like a spider's web.
Weak or damaged valves can lead to varicose veins. Arteries carry blood from your heart to the rest of your tissues, and veins return blood from the rest of your body to your heart, so the blood can be recirculated. To return blood to your heart, the veins in your legs must work against gravity. Muscle contractions in your lower legs act as pumps, and elastic vein walls help blood return to your heart. Tiny valves in your veins open as blood flows toward your heart then close to stop blood from flowing backward. If these valves are weak or damaged, blood can flow backward and pool in the vein, causing the veins to stretch or twist.