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Varicose Veins: Symptoms, Risk Factors, Causes, Treatment, and Prognosis

Dr. Craig Smith, MD

4 Min read

Varicose veins, a prevalent vascular condition, affect millions worldwide. Though often viewed as a cosmetic concern, they can cause discomfort and complications. To effectively manage and prevent varicose veins, it's crucial to understand their symptoms, risk factors, causes, treatment options, and prognosis.


Varicose veins, visible as twisted, enlarged veins under the skin, may not always exhibit symptoms. However, some individuals experience:

  • Swelling and aching in legs, exacerbated by prolonged standing or sitting.

  • Heaviness or discomfort in legs.

  • Itching around affected veins.

  • Skin discoloration and ulceration in severe cases.

These symptoms can significantly impact one's quality of life, affecting mobility and overall well-being.

Risk Factors:

Several factors increase varicose vein risk, including:

  • Age: Risk increases with age as vein walls weaken.

  • Gender: Women, due to hormonal fluctuations, pregnancy, and menopause, are more susceptible.

  • Family history: Genetics play a significant role.

  • Obesity: Excess weight adds pressure on veins, leading to valve dysfunction.

  • Prolonged standing or sitting: Impedes blood flow, contributing to varicose veins.

  • Pregnancy: Hormonal changes and increased vein pressure.

  • History of blood clots: Damages vein valves, increasing risk.

Understanding these factors aids in prevention and management.


Varicose veins develop when vein valves weaken or fail, causing blood to pool and veins to enlarge. Primary causes include:

  • Weak vein walls: Loss of elasticity leads to vein dilation and valve dysfunction.

  • Dysfunction of venous valves: Malfunction causes blood reflux, contributing to varicose vein formation.

  • Increased venous pressure: Obesity, pregnancy, and prolonged standing elevate pressure, exacerbating valve dysfunction.

  • Genetic predisposition: Inherited factors influence vein structure and function.


Varicose vein treatment aims to alleviate symptoms, prevent complications, and improve appearance. Common options include:

  • Lifestyle modifications: Exercise, weight management, leg elevation, and avoiding prolonged standing or sitting.

  • Compression therapy: Wearing compression stockings improves circulation and reduces swelling and discomfort.

  • Sclerotherapy: Minimally invasive, involves injecting a solution to collapse affected veins.

  • Endovenous laser ablation (EVLA): Laser energy seals the vein shut, redirecting blood flow.

  • Ambulatory phlebectomy: Surgical, removes varicose veins through small incisions.

  • Endoscopic vein surgery: Reserved for severe cases, involves vein removal through a small camera.


With treatment and lifestyle changes, most individuals experience symptom relief and prevent complications. However, untreated varicose veins may progress, leading to complications like venous ulcers or blood clots.


Varicose veins, while common, can cause discomfort and complications if left untreated. By understanding symptoms, risk factors, causes, treatment options, and prognosis, individuals can take proactive steps for effective management. Lifestyle changes, compression therapy, and various treatments offer relief and prevent complications. Seeking timely medical advice and adopting a proactive approach are crucial for maintaining healthy veins and overall well-being.

About the Author

In 1984, Dr. Craig Smith founded Lifesource. As a coach, he's worked with world-class athletes and guided thousands towards successful weight loss. Driven by a desire to elevate his understanding of the human body, he returned to the rigors of medical school in his 50s, achieving his goal of becoming a physician at 56. Now in his 60s, Dr. Smith leads by personal example, continuing to inspire, educate and empower individuals from all walks of life to achieve their health and fitness goals. If you wish to train and diet online with Dr. Smith, hear his message and schedule a 45-minute consultation on the New You page.