When Should I Start to Worry About Varicose Veins?

A woman touching her legs with varicose veins in a bedroom.

If you have varicose veins or experience symptoms like heaviness, cramping, itching, or leg pain, you may wonder when to worry about varicose veins.

Are varicose veins harmful? What are the risks of varicose veins that you should worry about? 

Managing varicose veins proactively is one of the best ways to prevent complications. Here’s what you need to know. 

Early Signs of Varicose Veins You Shouldn’t Ignore

Varicose veins typically start as tiny spider veins that are blue, purple, or red. Spider veins damage capillaries and are not technically varicose veins but could be a precursor to a more serious condition. 

Spider and varicose veins result from pressure caused by weak valves, which are unable to push blood back to the heart. Spider veins often occur on the legs, ankles, or feet but can happen anywhere on the body. They are typically painless, but you may not like how they look. 

Common risk factors for varicose veins are age, pregnancy, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. Many of these risk factors put additional pressure on the veins, particularly those in the legs. If you have a job that requires long periods of sitting or standing, this can also increase pressure on the feet, legs, and ankles. Additionally, there is a genetic component to varicose veins. You are 40% more likely to have varicose veins if one of your parents has them and 90% if it’s both parents[1].

Over time, the pressure from the blood remaining in the veins causes them to pop or bulge. These larger veins are true varicose veins, which is also a condition called venous insufficiency. While these veins aren’t initially dangerous, they can progress to eventually cause pain, skin changes, and increase your risk for blood clots

While you can live with this condition for a while without any issues, when are varicose veins dangerous? 

The Risks Associated with Varicose Veins

If your vein issues start to progress, what are some of the risks of varicose veins you should look out for? 

Venous insufficiency is a progressive disease. So, while varicose veins are not typically life-threatening, over time, they can become extremely uncomfortable and can lead to more severe medical issues. 

Here are some of the risks of varicose veins that may indicate that you should see a doctor for an evaluation.

Pain or cramps

Pain surrounding the varicose veins or cramps, burning, or heaviness in the legs may be a sign that your condition is getting worse. Often, pain is worse at night and may be accompanied by restless legs, making it difficult to get the sleep you need.


Inflammation, or swelling of the vein walls, is a sign that your veins may struggle under the pressure of the failing valves. It’s a signal of turbulent blood flow that is stressing and damaging the inner lining of the veins. Inflammation can also cause pain. Therefore, it’s important to have a medical evaluation before it gets worse [2].


As the pressure surrounding the veins increases, fluid from surrounding tissues can build up and cause swelling. This typically occurs around the ankles and feet. Elevating your legs can temporarily reverse the swelling, but it will return once you resume normal activity. Compression stockings can help keep this symptom under control for a while, but eventually, you will need to address the fluid buildup. 

While many of these conditions are initially manageable, they can become increasingly uncomfortable.

When to Be Concerned About Varicose Veins

Everyone may have slightly different tolerances for pain and discomfort. As soon as your varicose vein symptoms are interfering with your daily functioning or sleep, it’s time to seek a vein specialist who can help. 

Varicose veins can sometimes rupture, requiring treatment to close off the vein and prevent bleeding. While a burst vein isn’t a medical emergency, it should be treated and evaluated as soon as possible to prevent further complications. 

At advanced stages, varicose veins can begin to cause skin breakdown and discoloration. This can lead to wounds and ulcers that are difficult to heal, which may result in the immediate need for assessment and treatment. 

Complications: When are Varicose Veins Dangerous?

Typically, varicose veins are not life-threatening, but they can increase your risk of developing blood clots. These clots are usually superficial and resolve on their own, but can be painful. 

Occasionally, deeper blood clots can develop, called deep vein thrombosis [3]. Symptoms of deep blood clots may include pain, warmth, redness, and tenderness in the area. Sometimes, one of these deeper blood clots can detach and reach the lungs, leading to a pulmonary embolism. This condition can be life-threatening, and immediate treatment is needed.

When To Seek Medical Advice for Varicose Veins

There’s no reason to wait for your varicose veins to cause more severe complications. Many non-invasive vein procedures can help prevent varicose veins from getting worse. 

At Empire Vein Specialist, we offer several treatments to meet your individual needs. We are the top provider of VenaSealTM, the leading outpatient vein treatment in the USA, and other vein procedures. 

To get started, just schedule a 15-minute consultation with our team or call 1-800-VARICOSE (1-800-827-4267) to learn more about our practice.

There is no reason to allow your varicose veins to get so bad that they cause worry. Empire Vein Specialists can help you take proactive steps to lower your risk of complications from vein concerns.


  1. Cornu-Thenard, A., Boivin, P., Baud, J. M., De Vincenzi, I., & Carpentier, P. H. (1994). Importance of the familial factor in varicose disease. Clinical study of 134 families. The Journal of Dermatologic Surgery and Oncology, 20(5), 318–326.
  2. The Role of Endothelial Dysfunction and Inflammation in Chronic Venous Disease. Ann Vasc Surg, 2018. 46: p. 380-393
  3. Li, R., Chen, Z., Gui, L., Wu, Z., Miao, Y., Gao, Q., Diao, Y., & Li, Y. (2022). Varicose Veins and Risk of Venous Thromboembolic Diseases: A Two-Sample-Based Mendelian Randomization Study. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, 9, 849027.