Varicose Veins: Medical Problem or Cosmetic Issue?

You know what varicose veins look like. Those bulging, twisting lines that run up your lower leg are pretty hard to ignore. But do you know if those veins are merely a cosmetic problem or a medical concern? While the answer to that question may vary from patient to patient, it is important to know why varicose veins occur and their accompanying symptoms so you can determine if your veins are simply making you self-conscious about the upcoming warm weather season, or if they are a sign of a more serious problem. 

What Causes Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins appear as the result of an underlying condition known as venous insufficiency. After your arteries carry oxygenated blood throughout the body, the veins are responsible for returning that blood back to the heart. Tiny valves inside the veins move the blood in a single direction, to prevent blood backing up or pooling in the vessels. Over time, these valves can wear out or become damaged, which prohibits them from moving blood through the vessel as efficiently. When this happens, blood can indeed pool inside the veins, leading to vein swelling and varicosity.

Varicose veins commonly occur in the lower legs, because these veins have to work against the body’s own weight and the forces of gravity to push the blood upward to the heart. The valves in these veins are more likely to become damaged because of all that extra work. Weight gain, a sedentary lifestyle or long periods on your feet can exacerbate the problem. 

Common Symptoms

While varicose veins are typically caused by a medical condition, they are not always cause for alarm. For some people, those veins will never progress to more than the unsightly lines that keep you from wearing shorts or a bathing suit with confidence. However, others might develop uncomfortable symptoms with their varicose veins, which can be a sign their venous condition is worsening. 

Symptoms of varicose veins might include:

  • Heaviness or achiness in the lower legs
  • Swelling of the lower leg, ankle and foot
  • Night cramping or restless leg syndrome
  • Itchy, irritated skin
  • Skin thickening and discoloration
  • The formation of open sores around the ankles

The more symptoms you develop with your varicose veins, the more challenging they become to treat. This is particularly true when the skin changes begin, since discoloration may not be reversible and open sores known as venous ulcers can be very difficult to eliminate completely. 

At PCI Veins, we offer varicose vein treatment for both cosmetic and medical reasons. If an underlying cause of the veins can be identified, insurance may even help cover the cost of the procedure. To learn more about your options in varicose vein treatment, contact PCI Vein Center at 319-774-8432.


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