Why Do Varicose Veins Hurt?

February 6, 2021 The Vein Institute

Painful varicose veins

Varicose veins can hurt, and the pain is often described as a “dull ache,” sometimes accompanied by throbbing, itching, and general discomfort. Common side effects of such pain include tiredness, lack of energy and feelings of “heaviness” in the legs. For most patients who experience painful varicose veins, the symptoms are aggravated by inaction and resolve when they get up and walk. In general, large varicose veins produce more pain symptoms than small ones, but this is far from an exact predictor.

To understand why varicose veins sometimes can hurt, it’s important to understand what causes them. They are the result of a disease called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). This is a condition in which the veins’ internal valves malfunction and stop blood from flowing as it should – “up” towards the heart and lungs. Instead, the blood “leaks” back into the veins, causing them to swell and leading to increasingly poor circulation. This impaired circulation can cause inflammation, and allow blood to leak into areas that cause pain receptor fibres to activate.

In women, varicose vein symptoms may become worse during their menstrual cycles or pregnancy. And many people who do experience pain and discomfort find that it is worse at night, and can lead to a loss of sleep. Also, just the presence of constant or daily pain can have a significant impact on a person’s overall quality of life.

Relief from varicose vein pain

  • Exercise

    Yes, we know it sounds counter-intuitive, but regular exercise – even a daily brisk walk – can be helpful in alleviating the pain. Stretching also helps, because tight, constricted muscles impair circulation.

  • Lifestyle Changes

    Practice good skin hygiene, keep your weight down, stop smoking if you still smoke, and stay hydrated (drink lots of water).

  • Elevate Your Legs

    If your varicose veins hurt, spend some time each day with your legs raised above the level of your heart. This can improve blood flow and reduce pain.

  • Wear Compression Stockings

    Your vein doctor can prescribe prescription stockings that exert a constant pressure on your legs or calves to improve circulation and slow the growth of new varicose veins. These stockings can help to reduce pain in many patients, but in general larger varicose veins may require treatment.

  • Consider Treatment

    A trained doctor can help to help you either “live with” varicose veins, or treat them. Non-invasive treatment methods such as ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, endovenous laser treatment, and medical super glue are now an option for most patient’s.

Please note: for many people, their varicose veins don’t hurt. Some people will experience pain related to their varicose veins, while others will not. Research into pain associated with vein disease is thus often difficult to assess. This is due to the absence of a close relationship between pain and the clinical severity of the venous disease.

Seek expert advice

To learn more about varicose vein treatment options, please contact our varicose vein clinic in Sydney, Melbourne, or Canberra on 1300 535 017 or click to make an appointment.