Varicose veins are abnormal or ‘incompetent’ blood vessels that have become engorged and distended due to the back flow and pooling of blood. These veins are not normally visible to the eye, but once they become varicose they can become very apparent and raised above the surrounding skin.
Varicose veins are larger than spider and reticular veins, measuring from around 3mm up to more than 2cm in diameter, and are most commonly found on the legs between the ankle and thigh.
In some cases, varicose veins may have no obvious complications and may appear to be simply a cosmetic problem. In other cases, a range of complications can be involved. In either case, they are a form of venous disease and should be taken seriously.
Over time, they may become more extensive across the legs, and may begin to cause more symptoms and potentially serious complications.
In the CEAP clinical classification system
, varicose veins are categorised as C2 and are generally considered as a medical condition which should be assessed and possibly treated before the condition progresses further and more serious complications develop.