Varicose veins

General information

Varicose veins are swollen and enlarged veins that usually occur in the legs and feet. They are caused by the weakening of the valves in veins that prevent blood flowing backwards. When the valves don’t function properly, the blood flows back when the person is standing up. If several valves are damaged, the pressure in the veins increases and the surface veins swell up, resulting in varicose veins.

The symptoms can include swelling which is worse in the evenings, visible bulging veins, aches and pain, itching and tightness of the skin, ulcers, a brownish rash, and sometimes also a tendency for leg cramps. The symptoms usually get worse with long periods of standing.

Factors increasing the risk of varicose veins include age, genetic factors, female gender, obesity and pregnancy.


The first line of treatment is to wear sturdy, custom made compression stockings. They prevent the surface veins from enlarging. Swelling can be prevented with light exercise, such as walking. Avoid standing for long periods of time, and when seated raise your legs on for example a chair. If you are overweight, it is worth trying to lose weight.

When should you seek medical advice?

  • The skin on top of a varicose vein is delicate and it can break and bleed easily. If bleeding occurs frequently, you should consult a health-care professional to assess your need for a procedure.
  • If you have severe swelling and pain, professional medical advice is also recommended.

This Self-care instruction has been produced in collaboration with Duodecim Terveyskirjasto

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Updated  8.6.2020