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Varicose veins

Women are more likely to develop varicose veins than men

In a healthy vein, valves keep the blood flowing upward and back to your heart from the legs and arms; however, sometimes these valves become damaged, allowing small backflows of blood to become trapped in the veins. The result is a swollen and often painful, bulging vein that is typically seen in the legs.

Varicose veins are enlarged veins that can be blue, red or flesh-colored. They often look like cords and appear twisted and bulging. They can be swollen and raised above the surface of the skin. Varicose veins are often found on the thighs, backs of the calves or the inside of the leg. During pregnancy, varicose veins can form around the vagina and buttocks.


Women are about two times more likely to suffer from varicose veins than men.

Spider veins are like varicose veins but smaller. They also are closer to the surface of the skin than varicose veins. Often, they are red or blue. They can look like tree branches or spiderwebs with their short, jagged lines. They can be found on the legs and face and can cover either a very small or very large area of skin.

What factors increase my risk of varicose veins and spider veins?

Many factors increase your chances of developing varicose or spider veins. These include:

  • Increasing age
  • Medical history
  • Hormonal changes
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Lack of movement
  • Sun exposure

Contact your Novant Health doctor if you experience the following symptoms:

  • The vein has become swollen, red or very tender or warm to the touch.
  • There are sores or a rash on the leg or near the ankle.
  • The skin on the ankle and calf becomes thick and changes color.
  • One of the varicose veins begins to bleed.
  • Your leg symptoms are interfering with daily activities.
  • The appearance of the veins is causing you distress.

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