Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link
Quick Facts

Varicose Veins


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Jul 2021| Content last modified Jul 2021
Click here for the Professional Version
Get the full details
Topic Resources

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are veins just under your skin that become very large, twisted, and bulging. They're usually on your legs.

  • Varicose veins may hurt, itch, or ache

  • Varicose veins are more common in women and often start during pregnancy

  • Treatments can sometimes get rid of varicose veins, but new varicose veins often form

What causes varicose veins?

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes varicose veins, but they happen when the walls of your veins are weak. The veins stretch out, twist, and get wider.

Varicose veins may run in your family.

Varicose veins may get worse when you:

  • Gain weight or become obese

  • Stand a lot

  • Get older

What are the symptoms of varicose veins?

Varicose veins show up as snakelike bulges just under your skin.

The veins may cause you:

  • Pain

  • A tired feeling in your legs

  • Itching in your legs or ankles

You may be bothered by the way your varicose veins look.

How can doctors tell if I have varicose veins?

Doctors can usually see varicose veins when you’re standing. If your doctors are worried about other problems with your veins, doctors may do an ultrasound.

How can doctors treat varicose veins?

Varicose veins can’t be cured, but treatment can lessen your symptoms. Treatments can include:

  • Wearing support stockings (special socks that go up to your knees and press on your legs to prevent veins from stretching and hurting)

  • Putting your feet up, such as by lying down or using a footstool

  • Injections into the veins (sclerotherapy)—doctors inject medicine into the varicose veins to seal them up

  • Laser therapy

  • Surgery (vein stripping)—the doctor may do surgery to remove the varicose veins if your symptoms and varicose veins are severe

Varicose veins that happen during pregnancy usually go away by themselves 2 to 3 weeks after the baby is born.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
Others also read
Test your knowledge
Ebola Virus and Marburg Virus Infections
Ebola and Marburg virus infections are extremely serious and frequently fatal. Like other viruses in the class known as filoviruses, Ebola and Marburg infections cause extensive bleeding. Which of the following statements about Ebola and Marburg infections is NOT correct?
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Also of Interest

Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID