Health A-Z

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In the legs, varicose veins commonly are found along the inside of the leg, at the ankles and at the back of the calf. The affected veins look blue, swollen or stretched out, kinked or twisted.

In some people, varicose veins do not cause any symptoms. However, other people may experience one or more of the following:

  • A dull ache in the legs

  • A feeling of pressure or heaviness in the legs

  • Swollen feet and ankles

  • Itching skin near the damaged veins

In more severe cases of chronic venous insufficiency, a slowing of blood flow through the vein can lead to localized skin changes, including dryness, a rash or brownish discoloration and open sores (ulcers). Slow blood flow also can cause a clot to form inside the affected vein. This condition is called thrombosis.

In general, symptoms of varicose veins are worse at the end of the day, especially after periods of prolonged standing. Some women also find that their symptoms are more intense during the days before their menstrual periods, and during pregnancy.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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