Varicose Veins: A Cause of Swollen Legs and Ankles

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do varicose veins cause legs to swell

There are many potential causes of swollen legs and ankles. 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.

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 doctor.

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 board-certified vein doctors.

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.

During an initial consultation, your board-certified doctor will conduct a physical exam and ask about your medical history. Then, they may perform a leg ultrasound for a closer look at what is going on. Finally, one of our minimally invasive, office-based vein treatments may be recommended to alleviate your venous edema and other symptoms.

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.


Reviewed by Dr. Yan Katsnelson, the founder and CEO of USA Vein Clinics. Dr. Katsnelson is a highly skilled cardiac surgeon who completed a fellowship at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard School of Medicine, in Boston, MA. His clinical area of expertise includes minimally invasive procedures to treat vein and vascular diseases. Dr. Katsnelson has established himself as a strong advocate for accessible, affordable, and compassionate healthcare services.

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