Vein Disease Symptoms

Check your varicose vein symptoms

The different types of varicose vein

Varicose veins are extremely common. They occur when tiny valves found inside every vein begin to fail - impairing the flow of blood back to the heart. There are two main types:

1) Larger varicose veins - typically found in the legs and feet. The valves and muscles here have to work hardest to help get blood back to the heart. Varicose veins often develop at points where veins nearer the surface of the skin connect to deeper veins that are found behind the knee and in the groin

Bigger varicose veins are sometimes divided into ‘trunk’ varicose veins (longer, knobbly or bulging veins) and ‘reticular’ varicose veins (red and sometimes grouped closely together)

2) The second type of varicose vein (technically called ‘teleangiectasia’ varicose veins) are the smaller and thinner ‘thread’ or ‘spider’ veins. These can appear anywhere in the body, including in the face (commonly the cheeks, nose, or chin), thighs, knees, and ankles

Venous insufficiency: poor circulation symptoms

The first signs of a vein health problem can include cold or numb feet and toes, or tingling in the feet and legs

Varicose veins pain: swelling and cramp

Soreness and aching are a common feature of varicose veins. The trapped blood in the varicose vein leads to swelling (a build-up of fluid sometimes called ‘venous oedema’) often in the feet or ankles - and cramp. This can occur wherever the varicose veins are - in both legs, for example, or just in one. Swelling like this can be an indicator of varicose veins that aren’t immediately visible

Feelings of cramp in the thigh or calf can also indicate a problem with vein health. Typically brought on after time standing, or after a long walk, cramps might also occur at night: inflammation that has been steadily increasing throughout the day can suddenly make itself felt once mind and body relax. Warm weather can exacerbate the problem, because the hotter your body and the air get, the more your veins open up

Elevating the legs - by propping them on pillows at night, for example - is one way some patients try to get temporary relief from varicose vein pain in their legs, ankles and feet

Some people with varicose veins wear surgical compression stockings to improve their circulation: these stockings effectively mimic the work your muscles do in pumping blood back to the heart, squeezing tightest at the ankle then applying steady pressure up the rest of the calf and thigh

Get lasting relief from your varicose vein pain: book your call with a specialist advisor today

Burning, throbbing, or itchy varicose veins

The effect of unhealthy veins on the skin and tissue around them can lead to constant itching, and a painful burning or throbbing sensation. It’s a form of dermatitis, caused when the blood leaks into the vessels around the vein, while your impaired circulation deprives this tissue of the oxygen it needs. The result? Skin that’s dry, red, inflamed, and feels hot. The condition can get worse in summertime, as veins and tissues expand to help cool the body

Other problems: broken or discoloured skin

Vein disorders can manifest themselves in the skin in other ways. As circulation deteriorates, the skin can start to look shiny (as it thins). It can also become harder and drier, eventually cracking or becoming discoloured

Heavy, tired, or restless legs

One result of the build-up of fluid in the feet, ankles and legs is a feeling of fatigue and heaviness. With extra fluid trapped inside, and a lack of healthy blood flow through them, it can feel like you’re having to work extra hard just to move and lift affected joints or limbs

Another phenomenon closely linked to vein disease is a condition known as Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) or Willis-Ekbom disease. This is an uncontrollable urge to move your legs, often felt most keenly in the evening or at night. Almost all sufferers from RLS find their condition improves after their varicose veins have been treated

Discuss your symptoms and treatment options with a specialist advisor today

Bleeding varicose veins

When the skin above these veins breaks, various complications can occur. It can take a long time for any bleeding to stop and for any wound to heal

These ‘venous ulcers’ often develop on the inside of the leg, above the ankle, and at first become red and inflamed. They may start to leak fluid, before the skin at the surface starts to die. It then becomes very difficult to stop the wound reopening or to avoid the risk of infection. The vast majority of ulcers in the legs and feet are caused by vein disease

Varicose veins affecting confidence and wellbeing

Beyond the physical and visible effects of varicose veins, there’s a psychological impact too. Feeling that these veins are unsightly can limit our enjoyment of exercise and the outdoors - which can, in turn, leave us in poorer mental and physical health

Developing varicose veins can make us feel older and frailer, while chronic pain and irritation can not only limit your capacity for exercise, but also take a toll on mood and wellbeing. Varicose veins can become problematic when it comes to personal and professional relationships too


When clots start to form in your veins, this can lead to a range of more serious complications, including painful swelling and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). This is when blood thickens and clumps together, forming a clot in the deep vein system

The affected area swells up painfully, may feel warm to the touch, and may turn the skin red. Seek immediate help if you experience shortness of breath or chest pain and if you cough up blood: these may indicate a pulmonary embolism - which means a blood clot is blocking part of your lungs

May-Thurner Syndrome

Also known as ‘Iliac Vein Compression Syndrome’, this leads to swelling of the left leg and is caused by a large artery in the abdomen (the main route for blood from the heart to reach the legs) putting pressure on a large vein in the abdomen (the main route for blood to get back to the heart again).

Restricting the flow of blood like this leads to swelling and can cause Deep Vein Thrombosis (see below) if a clot develops. May-Thurner Syndrome can develop without warning, but it is more common in women and more likely during pregnancy.

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Where to find us

We're pleased to be able to provide our world-class varicose vein treatment in a variety of places throughout the United Kingdom. Learn more about your treatment options, including endovenous radio-frequency ablation (EVRF) and foam sclerotherapy, at the clinic closest to you

London Harley Street

You'll find our clinic at 150 Harley Street, in the heart of London’s prestigious medical district. The nearest Underground stations are Great Portland Street (Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, and Circle lines), Warren Street (Northern Line), Regent’s Park (Bakerloo line) and Baker Street (Jubilee Line)

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Manchester Pall Mall

Our Manchester clinic is located in the heart of the city's Central Retail District. The clinic is conveniently accessible from the Manchester district and neighbouring areas, with great public transportation links bringing you within a few minutes' walk. If you're arriving by car, there's plenty of parking available

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