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Varicose veins may present with several symptoms and, in general, not very specific. However, they all have three characteristics in common:
They get worse throughout the day (worse in the evening) and during warm periods of the year (spring, summer).
They vary depending on the position and physical activity (get worse when you spend many hours standing up, or sitting in a fixed position).
They do not improve with conventional analgesics or anti-inflammatory drugs.
The main ones are detailed below:
Swelling feeling. It is a very common complaint, although it is not always clearly visible.
Heavy legs. Similar to swelling, it is a very common complaint. It is especially common in women and gets worse with menstrual cycles (typically, worse just before menstruation).
Itching. It is usual to notice this, particularly, around the ankles and, especially, in severe cases of varicose vein disease, with skin changes (darkening or atrophy of the skin around the ankle).
Pain. Pain, as such, is not typical of varicose veins, but it can also appear. If it is local and in a sudden and intense manner in a varicose trajectory, it could be suggestive of a local complication in the form of varicophlebitis.
Cramps. Typically nocturnal and, particularly, if you have been on your feet for many hours during the day.
Feeling of restless legs. Particularly when resting in bed. It is not specific to varicose veins and also appears in the case of neurological diseases, psychiatric or electrolyte disorders, among others.
Signs of Varicose veins
Presence of varicose veins. It is obviously the most common clinical sign. They can be from small swollen veins, scarcely palpable, to large tumour formations or venous cords.
Swelling or oedema. Unlike the “feeling of swelling”, this is demonstrable and objective. It typically appears in the evening and usually disappears in the morning, because the legs drain the excess fluid during rest.
Changes in the skin. Typically, there is darkening of the skin, called ochre dermatitis. It usually occurs around the ankles, particularly, at the back and inner side. Other skin signs are usually reddening or eczema, skin thinning or atrophy and, in advanced stages, the presence of sores or ulcers.
Varicophlebitis. It is the presence of varicose veins that have turned hard (indurated), painful and hot. They are generally not a serious problem, although they can be very painful.
Bleeding varicose veins. It is more typical in large and very superficial varicose veins that bleed due to the skin beginning to ulcerate and open up to the exterior. The bleeding is not usually severe and stops easily with direct pressure and elevating the leg.
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Substantiated information by:
Esther Armans MorenoNursingCardiovascular Surgery Department
Xavier YuguerosVascular SurgeonAngiology and Vascular Surgery Service
Published: 19 June 2018
Updated: 19 June 2018
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