Varicose veins

Synonyms: Spider veins

Medical Specialties: Orthopedics, Plastic Surgery

Clinical Definition

Varicose veins are abnormal, dilated blood vessels caused by a weakening in the vessel wall or valve. They most often appear on the legs and in the pelvic areas as blue or purple vein clusters and are more common in women.

In Our Own Words

Varicose veins are a common condition that occur most often in the legs, causing the veins to appear swollen, twisted, or as blue or purple clusters. They are the result of weakened or damaged vein walls or valves. While they may cause mild pain, they are typically only a cosmetic issue. In some cases, however, they can lead to blood clots, skin ulcers (dermatitis) and other health issues.


Varicose veins are most common in women. While the exact cause is unknown, varicose veins are thought to be in part herditary and also caused by physical changes from multiple pregnancies, obesity, hormonal changes, and standing or sitting for long periods of time. 

Common Types
  • Spider veins
  • Telangiectasias
  • Varicoceles
Side Effects
  • Swollen clusters of purple or blue veins
  • Swollen legs
  • Soreness behind the knee
  • Leg muscles that cramp and tire easily
  • Brown discoloration of the skin
  • Bleedng caused by thinning skin around the veins
Share this article
  • The Cleveland Clinic. "Varicose Veins & Spider Veins." The Cleveland Clinic Foundation 2009. Accessed September 2013.
  • National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. "What Are Varicose Veins? National Institute of Health." February 2011. Accessed October 2013.
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