Varicose veins may often go unnoticed for some time. However, visually, a varicose vein will appear bluish purple. This is because the blood pooling in the vein needs to be oxygenated, which is why it is on its way back to the lungs and heart.

Once a varicose vein becomes symptomatic, patients commonly report a general heaviness and ache in the legs. This can be followed by swollen ankles and lower legs, restlessness, cramps and itching or an irritated rash on the legs or near the ankles.

Other common symptoms include tenderness to touch around the area of the varicose vein and numbness. Unsightly veins develop over the ankle and foot and the skin becomes discolored, later becoming thick and leathery. Patches of skin may break down resulting in ulceration.

Spider veins are like varicose veins, but appear much smaller and closer to the surface. They derive their name from looking like spider webs and a reddish color. Spider veins may represent the “tip of the iceberg,” with more serious venous disease underneath.


Varicose Veins

  • Aching pain
  • Easily tired legs
  • Leg heaviness
  • Swelling in the legs
  • Darkening of the skin (in severe cases)
  • Numbness in the legs
  • Itching or irritated rash on the legs

Deep Vein Thrombosis

  • Aching pain
  • Swelling in area of blood clot
  • Warmth and redness in area of blood clot

Pulmonary Embolism

  • Chest pain (often sudden)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sharp pain that worsens when taking a deep breath
  • Coughing up blood

Stages of Varicose Veins


  • Stagnation of blood flow due to immobility. This is common among bedridden patients (such as heart patients and those who have undergone any type of major or orthopedic surgery, especially of the hip or knee) and healthy persons who sit or lie still for an extended period –for example, on a long trip.
  • Blood vessel injury, caused by trauma, intravenous catheters or needles, chemotherapeutic agents, or infectious organisms.
  • Conditions that increase the tendency for blood to coagulate, such as a familial deficiency in anti-clotting factors or disorders like systemic lupus erythematosus.


Follow prevention tips as recommended by your doctor. These can include walking, controlling weight, wearing low-heeled shoes and avoiding long periods of sitting or standing in one position. Be sure to stand up and walk around often on long trips in airplanes or automobiles. Following a heart attack or major surgery, low doses of an anticoagulant (such as heparin or warfarin) may be recommended. Getting up and walking around again as soon as possible following either of those events is also advised.