Varicose Veins Stages - All Stages Symptoms & Treatment

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Medically Reviewed by Dr. Aman Priya Khanna
Written by Charu Shrivastava, last updated on 15 December 2023| min read
Varicose Veins Stages - All Stages Symptoms & Treatment

Quick Summary

Varicose veins stages refer to the different phases of the development and progression of varicose veins. Understanding these stages can help individuals identify and manage varicose veins at an early stage. Keep reading to learn about the varicose veins starting stages, their symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options to control your leg health.

Varicose veins stages refer to the different phases of the development and progression of varicose veins, which are enlarged and twisted veins commonly occurring in the legs. Understanding these stages can help individuals identify and manage varicose veins at an early stage.

Keep reading to learn about the varicose veins starting stages, their symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options to control your leg health.

What are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins can be rightly defined as the swollen and twisted veins you can see just beneath the skin's surface. They often appear blue or purple in colour and can be quite painful. These veins are generally found in the legs but can also affect the other body parts. 

These veins develop due to the weakening of the vein walls and valves, eventually leading to blood pooling and swelling. This causes the veins to become enlarged, indicating the possibility of underlying health conditions, such as chronic venous insufficiency (CVI).

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Common Causes of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are primarily caused by a condition known as venous insufficiency, which occurs when the valves within the veins become weakened or damaged. 

The function of these valves is to ensure that blood only flows in one direction, that is, towards the heart. Blood can pool and build up in the veins when they aren't functioning properly, which can cause varicose veins and vein enlargement. 

While venous insufficiency is the underlying cause, several factors can contribute to developing early-stage varicose veins in feet. Here are some common causes of varicose veins:

  1. Genetics: Those with a family history of varicose veins are at a higher risk of developing the condition.
  2. Age: Our veins can become weaker and less elastic as we age, increasing the risk of varicose veins.
  3. Gender: According to statistics, women are more likely to develop varicose veins than men. Hormonal fluctuations, such as those occurring during pregnancy, menopause, or the use of hormonal contraceptives, can contribute to their development.
  4. Pregnancy: Increased pressure on the veins can increase the risk of varicose veins.
  5. Obesity: Obesity can stress the veins more, increasing the chance of varicose veins. Obesity can become a big problem for you in future conditions.
  6. Lack of Exercise: Regular physical activity promotes good circulation and muscle tone, which helps support healthy blood flow. Sedentary lifestyles can contribute to poor circulation and increase the risk of varicose veins.

Significance of Understanding Varicose Veins Stages

For efficient management and therapy, it is essential to comprehend the varicose veins stages. Varicose veins develop through various stages, each of which has distinct traits and possible consequences. Reasons why it's crucial to comprehend the varicose veins progression, are as follows:

  1. Early Detection: Recognizing the early stages allows for early detection and treatment, which can prevent the condition from worsening.
  2. Treatment Planning: Each stage may require different treatment approaches, so understanding the stage helps in developing an appropriate treatment plan.
  3. Monitoring Progression: Understanding the stages helps monitor the progression of varicose veins, allowing for timely intervention if the condition worsens.
  4. Preventing Complications: Different stages pose varying risks of complications such as blood clots or ulcers. Understanding the stages helps identify these risks and take preventive measures.
  5. Patient Empowerment: Understanding the stages empowers individuals to actively participate in their healthcare decisions and advocate for their well-being.

Early Stage of Varicose Veins

Early-stage varicose veins refer to the initial phase of the condition when the veins start to bulge, twist, and appear visible beneath the skin's surface. They may also show a variety of signs and symptoms. Some of the most common signs of early-stage varicose veins include

  1. Discomfort or pain in the legs, especially after standing or sitting for extended periods
  2. Swelling or heaviness in the legs
  3. Visible veins, often blue or purple, on the feet or ankles
  4. Itching and burning sensation around the affected site

Early stages of varicose veins may not be a severe health concern for you, but ignoring them could lead to more severe stages, causing discomfort, pain, and other complications. 

Thus, recognising and treating varicose veins early is essential to prevent them from progressing into more severe stages.

So, if you notice any early-stage varicose veins symptoms, don't hesitate to consult a healthcare professional.

6 Stages of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are classified into six stages based on their severity. It is essential to understand these stages to ensure timely treatment and management of varicose veins. Let's dive into each step in detail.

Stage 1: Spider Veins

Spider veins, also known as Telangiectasias, are small and thin veins that appear just below the skin's surface. The enlargement of small blood vessels underneath the surface of your skin causes spider veins. 

  1. They are usually red, blue, or purple in colour and are typically seen on the legs, face, and chest. 
  2. Common factors contributing to their development are heredity, pregnancy, hormonal changes, obesity, and prolonged standing or sitting.
  3. They look like spider webs and can appear anywhere on the body but are mostly present on the legs and the face. 
  4. This is varicose veins starting age and can be resolved with the help of the correct treatment.

One needs to know that even though these are early-stage varicose veins and primarily harmless, timely treatments are highly recommended to avoid risks and complications.   

Stage 2: Enlarged, Ropy Varicose Veins

Enlarged, ropy varicose veins are larger, twisted, and bulging veins visible under the skin's surface. 

  1. They mainly occur in the legs and feet. 
  2. Common factors contributing to their development are heredity, pregnancy, hormonal changes, obesity, and prolonged standing or sitting. 

This stage of varicose veins has been known to come back after the treatment. However, with the help of the right treatment and procedures, one can find ways to terminate the problem effectively.

Stage 3: Oedema without Skin Changes

Oedema is the indication of early-stage varicose veins. The fluid collection in the tissues leads to swelling and discomfort. In the case of varicose veins, oedema usually occurs in the ankles and feet. 

  1. This is caused by the increased pressure in the veins due to the valves' failure. It causes the fluid to leak into the surrounding tissues, leading to swelling and discomfort.
  2. A wide variety of treatments are there to cure oedema, and a person is sure to achieve the desired results by making lifestyle changes. However, depending on the severity of the oedema, patients can also be prescribed medication and surgery. 

Stage 4: Skin Changes and Discoloration

Skin changes and discolouration are common in the fourth stage of varicose veins. As blood pools in the veins and the pressure builds up, the skin around the affected area can become thin and delicate. This leads to skin tearing and developing open sores or wounds. 

  1. The most common cause of skin changes in varicose veins is the pressure that builds up due to poor blood circulation. 
  2. The symptoms of skin changes in varicose veins include itching, scaling, and dryness of the skin around the affected area. The skin may also appear dark or discoloured and, in some cases, may develop open sores or wounds.

Stage 5: Skin Changes with Healed Ulcerations

Skin changes with healed ulcerations indicate that the condition has progressed to a more severe stage. 

  1. At this stage, the skin may be discoloured and thin and may have previously had an open sore or wound that has now healed. 
  2. The most common cause of skin changes with healed ulcerations in varicose veins is long-term pressure and poor circulation in the affected veins. 
  3. The symptoms include discolouration of the skin, scarring, and skin thinning around the affected area.
  4. With the effective and constant use of treatment options such as laser therapy, topical creams, stockings, etc., this problem can be controlled and managed to a great extent.

Stage 6: Active Ulcers

Active ulcers are the most severe stage of varicose veins. At this stage, open sores or wounds develop on the skin around the affected area, which can become infected and cause further complications. 

  1. The most common cause of ulcers in varicose veins is long-term pressure and poor circulation in the affected veins. 
  2. The symptoms of ulcers include pain, tenderness, and swelling around the affected area. The skin around the ulcer may also be discoloured and may feel warm to the touch.

One must know that this is the most advanced stage of varicose veins, where the condition persists despite treatments. It is essential to strictly follow a line of treatment and incinerate lifestyle changes to control the problem.

Diagnosis of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are a prevalent condition that impacts numerous individuals globally. Detecting varicose veins typically entails a thorough evaluation performed by a healthcare provider and may involve supplementary tests to validate the diagnosis and assess the extent of the condition. 

Given below are the various approaches used to diagnose varicose veins.

  1. Physical Examination: The physical examination is often the first step in diagnosing varicose veins. 
    1. During this examination, a healthcare professional will evaluate the appearance of your veins on the legs and assess any associated symptoms, such as pain, swelling, or skin changes. 
    2. The examination may also involve using a hand-held Doppler ultrasound device, which uses sound waves to detect blood flow in the veins.
  2. Ultrasound: An ultrasound is a straightforward diagnostic procedure that generates images of the internal structures of your body by utilising high-frequency sound waves.
    1. This test can help identify the location, size, and severity of varicose veins and determine if there are any blood clots in your vein. 
    2. Ultrasound is considered the most accurate and reliable diagnostic test for varicose veins and is often used in physical examinations.

Other Tests

In a few cases, some other tests may be required to evaluate the condition of varicose veins further. These may include:

  1.  Venography: This test involves the injection of a special dye into a vein, which makes the vein visible on X-ray. It helps in the identification of any abnormalities or blockages in the veins. 
  2. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This test uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves, creating detailed images of the inside of the body. It may be used to evaluate the veins and surrounding tissues in more detail.  
  3. Computed Tomography (CT) scan: A CT scan combines X-rays with computer technology to create detailed images of the inside of the body. It may be used to identify any abnormalities or blockages in the veins.

Overall, it's never a single test for patients; diagnosing varicose veins involves a combination of physical examination and diagnostic tests. 

If you suspect the emergence of varicose veins, it's vital to seek the advice of a healthcare expert who can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Treatment for Varicose Veins

Varicose veins, in most cases, are not dangerous but are sure to cause discomfort to a person. To proceed with the treatment, it is crucial to understand the stage of the problems and then opt for the most suitable type of testament. 

The most effective treatment for varicose veins includes

  1. Compression Stockings: Compression stockings are a popular self-care option for varicose veins. These stockings apply pressure to the legs, improving blood flow and reducing swelling.
    The following points must be considered when using compression stockings:
    1. Choose the right size and compression level recommended by your doctor
    2. Put them on first thing in the morning and wear them throughout the day
    3. Replace them every three to six months.
  2. Sclerotherapy is a simple procedure in which your doctor injects a solution into the affected vein to seal it off.
  3. Radiofrequency Ablation: A minimally invasive treatment that uses heat energy to destroy the affected vein. 
  4. Endovenous Laser Therapy comprises a minimally invasive procedure where laser energy is used to heat and seal the affected vein.
  5. Ambulatory Phlebectomy: A minimally invasive surgical procedure that involves removing the affected vein through small incisions in the skin.
  6. Surgery: Surgery sometimes becomes necessary to repair or remove the damaged veins. This may be done through minimally invasive procedures. This includes endovenous laser therapy or radiofrequency ablation.

Self-Care Tips for Varicose Veins

If you are among many people experiencing varicose veins, you may wonder what steps you can take to manage the condition. While medical treatment may be crucial in some cases, self-care can effectively relieve discomfort and prevent the condition from progressing.

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Varicose Veins

Lifestyle changes play an important role in managing varicose veins. Here are a few modifications one can make in everyday life:

  1. Elevate your legs while resting to reduce swelling.
  2. Exercise regularly to improve blood circulation and strengthen your leg muscles.
  3. Eat a balanced diet comprising fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean protein.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight.
  5. Avoid prolonged sitting or standing.
  6. Avoid tight clothing that restricts blood flow.
  7. Avoid wearing high heels as they can put pressure on the blood vessels.

Exercise Recommendations

Exercise can be highly effective in the management of varicose veins. Here are some exercise recommendations:

  1. Low-impact exercises, such as walking, cycling, or swimming.
  2. Leg exercises, such as ankle flexes and toe raises, improve circulation.
  3. Yoga or stretching to improve flexibility and relieve tension.

Dietary Recommendations

Diet plays a significant role in managing varicose veins. Here are some diet recommendations:

  1. Increase the fibre intake as fibre helps in preventing constipation, which can put pressure on the veins and worsen varicose veins.
  2. Eat foods rich in vitamins C and E, as these two vitamins are important for collagen production and maintaining healthy blood vessels.
  3. Drink 7 to 8 glasses of water a day to keep yourself hydrated.
  4. Limit your salt intake to reduce water retention and swelling.
  5. Consume food rich in anti-inflammatory properties to reduce chronic inflammation.
  6. Consume food rich in antioxidants as it helps protect blood vessels from oxidative stress and promotes healthy circulation.

It's essential to consult your healthcare professional before trying any self-care tips or treatment options to ensure they're safe and appropriate for you. With the right approach, you can effectively manage varicose veins and enjoy a more comfortable and active lifestyle.

When to Consult a Doctor?

If you can notice the early stage varicose veins symptoms but are not feeling any pain or discomfort, then there is no immediate need to rush to the doctor. 

However, if there is an emergence of pain, itchiness, numbness, or discomfort, then it's time to consult a doctor and proceed with the right line of treatment. 

Varicose veins are mostly harmless, but advanced stages can impose a problem. By consulting the healthcare provider and starting testament at the right time, one can actively take steps towards controlling the problem. 

Takeaway

Now that you know about all six stages of varicose veins, you can take the appropriate measures. It is possible to manage the condition and lead a healthy and active life by clearly understanding varicose veins. Now we know from varicose veins stage 1, which is spider veins, to active ulcers stage, different locations require a different approach to management. Fortunately, various treatment options are available for all 6 stages of varicose veins, with the help of which this problem can be completely controlled and managed.

Still, looking for a one-stop destination where you can find the best medical help and assistance? Then we at Hexahealth are the right place for you. We consist of a team of experts from diverse fields who can handle all your big and small needs. To discover more, get in touch with us at Hexahealth today.

Suggested Reads,

Laser Treatment for Varicose Veins (EVLT) Varicose Veins
Sclerotherapy for Varicose Veins

Varicose Veins Treatment in Ayurveda

Frequently Asked Questions

The different varicose veins stages require a separate line of treatment. Treatment based on stages includes:

  1. Stage 1 – sclerotherapy, laser therapy, ablation with radiofrequency energy.
  2. Stage 2 - endovenous laser therapy, radiofrequency ablation, sclerotherapy, ambulatory phlebectomy.
  3. Stage 3 -compression stockings, exercise, elevation, medications, surgery
  4. Stage 4 - laser therapy, compression stockings, topical creams.
  5. Stage 5 – compression stockings, topical creams, laser therapy
  6. Stage 6 – wound care, surgery, compression stockings 
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The early stage varicose veins symptoms include veins becoming dark purple or blue. Find appears bulging and twisted like cords on the legs. Even though there is no discomfort in the initial stages, one must watch out for these changes to ensure treatment as early as possible.

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The stages of varicose veins can be classified into six stages. These are :

  1. Spider veins are the initial stage where spider veins can be addressed.
  2. Ropey veins - the second stage is when the spider veins have tuned into a lumpy network of veins that looks and are painful.
  3. Edema is a stage where legs swell due to the trapped fluid on body tissue.
  4. Skin discolouration happens when the skin changes into natural hues into a raffish or white colour.
  5. Skin changes with healed ulcerations. In this stage, the skin becomes discoloured and thin, accompanied by scarring.
  6. In active ulcers, the most severe stage, wounds develop around the affected area, and complications arise.
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It is essential for one to know that varicose veins can occur in a person at any age. However, reports suggest that it is more likely to affect women than men and hit people between the ages of 30 and 60.

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Varicose veins have multiple stages. Each stage is accompanied by a different set of symptoms and causes. The treatment can only be done based on the existing problems, so it is essential to ensure that the treatment for varicose veins is done based on the stages.

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Following are the symptoms associated with the six stages of varicose veins.

  1. Stage 1 - The appearance of bulging, twisted, and enlarged veins under the surface of the skin 
  2. Stage 2 - In this stage, there is swelling in the ankles and the feet and tightness and heaviness in the affected area.
  3. Stage 3 – The skin starts to change, and there is itching, scaling, and dryness of the skin around the affected area. The skin can also develop open wounds and scars.
  4. Stage 4 - The skin around the affected area becomes thin and delicate, leading to skin tearing and developing open sores or wounds
  5. Stage 5 - Under this stage, the symptoms include discolouration of the skin, scarring, and thinning of the skin around the affected area.
  6. Stage 6 - Pain, tenderness, and swelling around the affected area. The skin around the ulcer may also be discoloured and may feel warm to the touch.
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When the symptoms are detected in the early stages of varicose veins, then the following preventive measures can be adopted for the elimination of the problem :

  1. Regular exercises
  2. Weight management
  3. Wear loose-fitted clothes
  4. Avoid sitting or standing for a long time, etc.
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 Ayurveda is a holistic approach used to treat many problems, including varicose veins. There are several ayurvedic remedies that can be used to reduce the six stages of varicose veins. These include the panchakarma raktamokshana treatments, Basti treatment, snehan, ayurvedic pharmacology treatment, lepanam treatment, etc.

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When the symptoms and treatments are not recognized and initiated in the varicose starting stage, then it is sure to bring with it many problems and complications. When left unattended, blood continues to pool in the veins resulting in pain and swelling, and can also worsen the condition in many ways.
It can also lead to open wounds and swelling in ankles, enlargement, etc.

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The different stages of varicose veins and accompanied by different symptoms. The varicose veins stages can be easily identified and diagnosed at all six stages. It is best to consult a healthcare provider upon the emergence of the first problem to avoid further complications and higher levels of treatment.

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The doctors recommended many lifestyle changes with the help of which the early stages of varicose veins can be controlled and managed. These include :

  1. Wearing compression garments
  2. Elevating the legs
  3. Regular exercises
  4. Weight management 
  5. Avoid excessive salt intake 
  6. Wear comfortable and loose clothes
  7. Keep the skin moisturised, etc.
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The six stages of varicose veins are sure to have their set of serious outcomes when not addressed and treated at the right time. For one, if the problem is not treated at the end first, it will escalate to other stages, where a person suffers from pain, swelling, and other discomforts.
Unintending the problem can also lead to open wounds, discolouration of the skin, swelling, bleeding, and other problems.

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No, there are several treatments available with the help of which the problem of varicose veins can be eliminated entirely. However, one must be watchful that when this problem is diagnosed and treated during the early stages of varicose veins, the chances of complete recovery are far better than when the situation has escalated to higher levels.

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References

All the articles on HexaHealth are supported by verified medically-recognized sources such as; peer-reviewed academic research papers, research institutions, and medical journals. Our medical reviewers also check references of the articles to prioritize accuracy and relevance. Refer to our detailed editorial policy for more information.


  1. Varicose Veins: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis [Internet]. Healthline. 2012. link
  2. Varicose Veins [Internet]. 2019. link
  3. Varicose Veins: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. [cited 2023 Jun 7]. link
  4. Varicose (spider) veins: Treatment, causes, symptoms, and more [Internet]. www.medicalnewstoday.com. 2017 [cited 2023 Jun 7]. link
  5. NHS Choices. Varicose Veins [Internet]. NHS. 2019.link

Updated on : 15 December 2023

Reviewer

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

MBBS, DNB General Surgery, Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery, FIAGES

12 Years Experience

Dr Aman Priya Khanna is a well-known General Surgeon, Proctologist and Bariatric Surgeon currently associated with HealthFort Clinic, Health First Multispecialty Clinic in Delhi. He has 12 years of experience in General Surgery and worke...View More

Author

Charu Shrivastava

Charu Shrivastava

BSc. Biotechnology I MDU and MSc in Medical Biochemistry (HIMSR, Jamia Hamdard)

2 Years Experience

Skilled in SEO and passionate about creating informative and engaging medical content. Her proofreading and content writing for medical websites is impressive. She creates informative and engaging content that educ...View More

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