Varicose veins

Varicose veins are swollen and enlarged veins that usually occur on the legs and feet. They may be blue or dark purple, and are often lumpy, bulging or twisted in appearance.

Other symptoms include:

The symptoms are usually worse during warm weather or if you've been standing up for long periods of time. They may improve when you walk around or if you rest and raise your legs.

When to see a GP

If you have varicose veins and they do not cause you any discomfort, you may not need to visit a GP.

Varicose veins are rarely a serious condition and do not usually require treatment.

But speak to a GP if:

The GP can diagnose varicose veins based on these symptoms, although further tests may be carried out.

Read about diagnosing varicose veins.

Causes of varicose veins

Varicose veins develop when the small valves inside the veins stop working properly.

In a healthy vein, blood flows smoothly to the heart. The blood is prevented from flowing backwards by a series of tiny valves that open and close to let blood through.

If the valves weaken or are damaged, the blood can flow backwards and collect in the vein, eventually causing it to be swollen and enlarged (varicose).

Certain things can increase your chances of developing varicose veins, such as:

Read about the causes of varicose veins.

Treating varicose veins

If treatment is necessary, your doctor may first recommend using compression stockings, taking regular exercise and elevating the affected area when resting.

If your varicose veins are still causing you pain or discomfort, or they cause complications, they can be treated in several ways.

The most common treatment options include:

It's unlikely you'll receive treatment on the NHS for cosmetic reasons – you'll have to pay for cosmetic treatment privately.

If you do feel you require treatment, it might help if you print out treatment options for varicose veins to discuss with the GP.

Read about:

Treating varicose veins 

Complications of varicose veins

Preventing varicose veins

There's little evidence to suggest you can stop varicose veins getting worse or completely stop new ones developing.

But there are ways to ease symptoms of existing varicose veins, such as:

Types of varicose veins

There are several types of varicose veins, such as:

Page last reviewed: 7 May 2020
Next review due: 7 May 2023