What are Varicose Veins and Spider Veins?

Varicose and spider veins are ​signs of a problem called superficial venous reflux. This occurs when​ ​veins near the skin on the leg​ ​develop malfunctioning valves. The defective valves create poor circulation in the veins, allowing blood to backflow and pool, bulging and deforming the veins. The result is either a spiderweb of blue lines under the skin (spider veins), or twisted and protruding knots (varicose veins).

For most, the appearance of varicose veins or brightly colored spider veins raises only a cosmetic concern. But in some cases, the underlying cause of poor vein circulation can create additional complications. Here are some of the potential symptoms:

  • The appearance of red, blue, or purple veins underneath the skin
  • The appearance of twisted, bulging, ​hard, ​or otherwise misshapen veins
  • An ache or heavy feeling in the legs
  • Sensations of throbbing, cramping, burning, or swelling in the legs
  • Itching around the veins

In severe cases, the following symptoms can develop:

  • Pain and discoloration of the skin in the affected area
  • Bleeding from affected veins
  • Hardening of the vein
  • Skin ulcers, which can lead to infection​​