Medical Moment: When to worry about varicose veins

You’ve seen those veins your whole life, like the one in your upper forearm that’s often used when you need blood drawn. But what about that unusual clump of veins that’s recently — quite literally — popped up on your legs or somewhere else on your body? Should you be worried about these veins?

“That is a common question that I get in my office, and usually, the answer is no, these won’t hurt you at all, said Dr. Margaret Jackson, a vascular surgeon at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center at Baytown.

Varicose Veins Vs. Spider veins

Varicose veins are those red, purple, or blue ones that seem to lie just under the skin and don’t go away with massage, change in position, hot, cold, or anything you do. They are veins that have become diseased over time, usually due to genetics, age, or having a job where you stand on your feet or sit at a desk for long periods. Spider veins are the smaller version of varicose veins.

“When the veins are damaged, blood will pool in your legs. If this happens, you will notice that your legs are heavy, tired, achy, and maybe even swollen at the end of the day,” said Jackson.

This condition is called chronic venous insufficiency, and it can progress over your lifetime if it isn’t treated. The result of many years of untreated venous insufficiency can be lymphedema, which is swelling that doesn’t resolve, or even open sores on your skin.

Treatment Options

Things you can do at home to relieve your symptoms:

  • Wearing compression socks
  • Exercising leg muscles
  • Elevating your legs
  • Avoiding sitting or standing for long periods

“Here in my office, we start with compression and an ultrasound which will evaluate the valves in your legs. If we see that your valves are so leaky that they are letting a lot of blood pool in your legs, you could benefit from a procedure called an ablation, where we close a leaky vein from the inside,” Jackson said.

Smaller spider veins can be treated with an injection.

When to see a specialist

If you have heaviness in your legs or swelling at the end of the day, it’s time to make an appointment. If you have swelling that never goes away or open sores, it’s definitely time to make an appointment. The specialists at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center Baytown are here to help answer your questions. To schedule an appointment, visit or call 832.556.6625.

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