Varicose Veins

By Scott W. Baker, MD

Normal veins have valves that prevent the blood they carry from flowing backward, away from the heart. Superficial venous reflux is a condition that develops when the valves that usually keep blood flowing out of your legs become damaged or diseased. This causes blood to pool in your legs. Common symptoms of superficial venous reflux include pain, swelling, leg heaviness and fatigue, as well as varicose veins in the legs. This often develops very slowly and may not be noticed initially. Varicose veins can present as enlarged, blue, red or flesh-colored ropelike veins, usually rising above the skin.

Like varicose veins, spider veins form when blood pools in small areas of weakened veins. However, spider veins are less likely to cause pain or discomfort, as varicose veins often do. Additionally, varicose veins are bigger and begin to rise above the surrounding skin, whereas spider veins are thinner and usually remain beneath the skin.

Veins that are visible through the skin don’t always mean they are varicose, or spider veins. There are many factors that can cause veins to be more prominent, such as in individuals with fair skin, since veins tend to show more easily through lighter skin. Other contributing factors that can cause veins to show through the skin include body temperature, levels of hydration, stress levels and medications.

Many people believe that varicose veins are entirely a cosmetic issue, but they actually are a medical issue that shouldn’t be ignored. Varicose veins can develop into a disease called chronic venous insufficiency, or CVI, that can lead to serious health problems. For this reason, varicose veins should be assessed by a qualified venous specialist who will recommend any necessary treatment. Most insurances provide benefits for treatment of varicose veins.

Dr. Baker is the medical director of the Vein Clinic of North Carolina in Winston-Salem, NC, and is certified by the American Board of Venous and Lymphatic Medicine. The Vein Clinic of North Carolina has been providing comprehensive vein care services for over 30 years and is the longest running dedicated vein practice in the Triad. All procedures are done in our office for the convenience of our patients. We accept and participate with most insurances, including Blue Cross/Blue Shield. For more information on Dr. Baker and the Vein Clinic of North Carolina, please visit