Symptoms of varicose veins and the physical changes of varicose veins come in many forms, but all should be taken seriously. Any of these symptoms below can be indicative of venous insufficiency. If left untreated, the symptoms most often worsen and can lead to serious vein disease..
Most vein symptoms are worse at the end of the day, around the time of a menstrual period, in hot weather, and with prolonged standing or sitting. Symptoms can be painful and are often improved with leg elevation, activity such as walking, and with the use of compression stockings.
- Swelling (which doctors refer to as “edema”) usually occurs in the lower part of the leg, usually around the ankle or in the feet. This leg swelling is often more pronounced after longer periods of standing or at the end of the day. Sometimes you may not even notice the swelling, but only see telltale signs, such as an indentation in your ankle from your socks. In other cases, the leg swelling may be pronounced and severe, accompanied by changes in the color of the skin. Swelling often indicates vein problems occurring below the surface of the skin. If your leg swelling involves the tops of your feet, then the swelling could be from a condition we call “lymphedema” which is different from venous insufficiency. Usually people with varicose veins and venous insufficiency have leg swelling that does not extend to their feet.
- Itchiness or an irritated rash on or near your veins. This may lead to severely dry skin and can be a form of eczema.
- Numbness over areas where varicose veins are protruding beneath the skin's surface.
- Throbbing in the legs. This feeling is due to the increased pressure of the blood against the vein wall. Leg throbbing can occur over the entire leg, but is most commonly over areas of large varicose veins or spider veins. It is usually worse after long periods of standing or at the end of a long day. Some patients complain that they have leg throbbing in their feet or calves after exercising for a long time.
- Desire to elevate: Sometimes symptoms of venous insufficiency can by rather subtle. Often, patients express the feeling that they “must” put their feet up at the end of the day. And when they do, they feel a lot of relief. They feel that their veins are “under pressure” when they are standing and report the leg pressure goes away when their legs are elevated. Although this can be normal, it often indicates a subtle sign of venous insufficiency.
- Worsening Symptoms at the Time of mensturation: In women, varicose veins may be more uncomfortable around the time of the menstrual period, and may worsen after pregnancy. Likely, this is due to hormonal effects on veins.
- Pain: Varicose veins can often be painful to the touch, especially after a long day of standing. This is due to increased pressure within these fragile veins. Even smaller spider veins can be painful since they often transmit abnormally high pressures from the larger veins. Often, this pain improves considerably with compression stockings.