Varicose Veins: A Cause of Swollen Legs and Ankles

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varicose veins leg swelling

There are many potential causes of swollen legs and ankles (leg edema). Some, like injury and infection, are fairly obvious. There are also underlying health issues, such as kidney or lymph node conditions, that can lead to leg and ankle swelling.

Another possible explanation involves vein disease, or venous insufficiency. Vein disease, the underlying cause of varicose veins and spider veins, can also cause your legs and ankles to swell. This type of leg edema, known as venous edema, is a result of fluid buildup in faulty veins and surrounding tissue.

To determine the causes of swollen legs and ankles in your individual case, we recommend consulting a vein specialist. Along with evaluating your overall vein health, they can provide minimally invasive, outpatient vein treatment to alleviate any pain or discomfort.


Do Varicose Veins Cause Legs to Swell?

Although sometimes viewed as only a cosmetic issue, varicose veins are a sign of poor vein health. They can develop when tiny, one-way vein valves in the legs become damaged and begin to malfunction.

When leg veins cannot send blood back to the heart, blood can begin to pool in the lower extremities. Often, this causes swollen legs and ankles, along with varicose veins. Chronic swelling due to vein disease is known as venous edema.

Common symptoms of vein disease include:

  • Swelling in your legs, ankles, and feet
  • Cramps or achiness in the thigh or calf
  • Tired or heavy legs
  • Leg restlessness, especially at night
  • Itchy, dry, or hardened skin on your legs
  • Open, non-healing wounds on your legs and ankles
  • Leg pain that is alleviated by walking or leg elevation

If you develop venous edema or other signs of vein disease, you should consider consulting a vein specialist.

Do Varicose Veins Cause Swelling In Ankles?

The presence of varicose veins is often accompanied by swelling in the ankles. As vein disease progresses, you may also develop tenderness, skin discoloration, and even ulceration in surrounding areas.

This is because the pressure and swelling may increase until the tiniest blood vessels in the legs, known as capillaries, burst. When this happens, the skin above these vessels may take on a brownish color which can be very sensitive to the touch.

If the burst capillaries are left untreated, they can cause local tissue inflammation and internal tissue damage. This happens because venous insufficiency, chronic swelling, and ulceration are all progressive disorders.

Tissue damage can eventually lead to venous ulcers, which are non-healing, open wounds. The most common site of venous ulcers is the ankles. Venous ulcers can place you at risk for serious infection. If you experience ankle swelling, skin changes, or the formation of venous ulcers, we recommend scheduling a consultation with our experienced vein specialists.

When to Seek Treatment

When it comes to vein disease, it is important to seek medical evaluation as soon as possible. Early treatment can help alleviate painful symptoms, such as varicose veins leg swelling, along with keeping things from getting worse. Vein treatment can also reduce your risk of developing dangerous health conditions, including venous ulcers and blood clots.

While leg edema can be a sign of varicose veins, it can also indicate a blood clot. We want you to know that deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a type of blood clot that occurs in the deep venous system, can lead to a life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism. This issue requires emergency treatment. Even if you think that your leg swelling is related to varicose veins, a medical diagnosis is always necessary to determine the underlying cause of swollen legs and ankles and prevent complications.

When varicose veins cause leg swelling, non-surgical treatment can often resolve this challenging symptom –– and if you suffer from varicose veins and leg edema, we recommend seeking treatment as soon as possible. The good news is that many of our patients are surprised to learn how quick and convenient vein treatment can be.

At USA Vein Clinics, we offer a range of minimally invasive, office-based treatments that can be performed in about an hour, from start to finish. There is no need for a hospital stay, surgery, or lengthy recovery. In fact, you can leave immediately after treatment and return to most normal daily activities.

What to Expect During an Exam Prior to Treatment

We understand that varicose vein leg swelling can be bothersome, at best. At worst, varicose veins and leg edema can be downright painful, impacting mobility and quality of life. Our compassionate team of experts is available to evaluate your symptoms, along with providing treatment when needed.

Before scheduling vein treatment, one of our knowledgeable vein specialists will meet with you for an initial consultation. During this visit, we will discuss your symptoms and medical history. Then, your specialist will perform a physical examination, which may include a leg ultrasound to examine the health of your leg veins.

Afterwards, we will be able to make personalized recommendations for your varicose veins and leg edema. This may involve making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, exercising more, and eating a healthier diet. We may also recommend one or more of our varicose vein leg swelling treatments.

Many patients choose to schedule an initial consultation in one of over 100 nationwide clinic locations. Others may prefer to get their questions answered during a virtual doctor visit. No matter your appointment preference, we are available to provide information about varicose vein leg swelling, vein disease, and minimally invasive vein treatment.

Discover Minimally Invasive Vein Treatment at USA Vein Clinics 

If you suffer from varicose veins, leg swelling, or other venous problems, our vein specialists can help. At USA Vein Clinics, we take a personal approach to answering questions such as: do varicose veins cause legs to swell, and, do varicose veins cause swelling in ankles? We can also determine the underlying causes of swollen legs and ankles.

At USA Vein Clinics, we believe that vein treatment should be convenient and accessible. If you or a loved one is struggling with chronic swelling of the legs, call us at 888.768.3467 or schedule an appointment online to start your journey towards improved vein health.


Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Yan Katsnelson is a philanthropist, business owner, and highly skilled cardiac surgeon. He is the Founder and CEO of USA Vein Clinics, which is part of USA Clinics Group, the parent company of USA Fibroid Centers, USA Vascular Centers, and USA Oncology Centers with more than 100 facilities nationwide. Dr. Yan has established himself as a strong advocate for accessibility and affordability of the most advanced medical care close to home. His mission is to create a positive experience for each patient with compassionate, personalized, and expert care.

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