Varicose veins

In many cases, varicose veins are harmless. However, they are an indication of venous disease. Especially with heavy legs or swollen legs and pain in the leg varicose veins should be examined by a doctor. More about self-help with varicose veins.

Varicose veins


Varicosis, varicosis, varices


Varicose veins on the leg during walking

Varicose veins are called Varicose, Varicose or Varicose in medical terminology. These are permanently dilated and hardened veins that run close to the lower legs, especially. Therefore, the varicose veins are characteristic there and are perceived - especially by women - as a cosmetic problem. Varicose veins can usually be treated and, if in doubt, removed. Physicians distinguish primary and secondary varicose veins

Primary varicose veins

Primary varicose veins are attributed to connective tissue weakness. Long periods of stress (standing or sitting, for example) and over time cause the veins to lose mobility. The blood can not be pumped so well through the venous valves. It builds up in the vein, which can therefore bulge out and expand. Due to the backlog in the superficial veins, a varicose vein becomes visible. The formation of varicose veins is favored by hormonal influences during pregnancy and menstruation as well as by inherited weak connective tissue. Spider veins are a precursor of varicose veins.

Secondary varicose veins

Secondary varicose veins are the result of drainage problems in the deep venous system. This can be a blood clot in a thrombosis, but also a tumor, pregnancy or increased blood pressure in the veins. Since the blood can no longer flow away through the deep veins, it seeks another way: namely through the superficial veins. These dilate due to the additional burden and the amount of blood now to be transported and are visible as varicose veins. In addition to permanent venous insufficiency, there is chronic venous insufficiency, which is often accompanied by secondary damage to the skin. Here, for example, the dreaded "open leg" - medical Ulcus cruris - to call.


Women are more likely to get varicose veins than men. They are especially affected during pregnancy and before menstruation. A precursor of varicose veins are so-called spider veins. In contrast, phlebitis is sometimes a result of varicose veins. The frequency of varicose veins increases with age.


The most striking symptom of varicose veins is clearly visible to the naked eye: Beneath the skin, especially on the lower legs and sometimes in the groin, bluish to black discolored and permanently enlarged veins stand out. Typical symptoms of varicose veins include heavy legs, swollen legs due to edema (water retention), stinging pain, itching and leg cramps.


In the veins the blood is transported back to the heart. The blood can not flow simply thanks to the pumping power of the heart. Rather, the blood passes back to the heart with the help of muscle movements and venous valves (so-called muscle vein pump). The veins are surrounded by a fine muscle network. These muscles make sure that the blood is pumped through the veins in stages. These stages are limited by venous valves. The flaps ensure that the blood does not always run back to the lowest point of a vein.

Strong connective tissue supports the veins, gives them support and thus facilitates the venous activity. But if the connective tissue is weak, the veins go limp, - and no longer close tightly. As a result, more blood in the superficial veins collapses, the blood builds up, the veins become dilated and bulge - and this becomes visible as a varicose vein.


Ideally, have varicose veins treated by a vein specialist (phlebologist). Conservative therapy includes compression stockings and compression bandages. On the one hand they should relieve the connective tissue and the veins and on the other hand push the blood into deeper located veins.

Other methods of varicose vein therapy include the obliteration of varicose veins, laser or radio wave therapies as well as the surgical removal of varicose veins. If possible, these therapeutic procedures should be performed in specialized venous practices or phlebological centers.

Sclerotherapy: sclerotherapy

In sclerotherapy or sclerotherapy, a sclerosing agent (fluid or foam) is injected into the vein. This provokes an inflammation on the inner walls of the veins. The vein walls stick together and scar and blood can no longer flow through them and sink. Achieving sustainable treatment success typically requires multiple therapy sessions. Often, the procedure must be repeated after one to two years - because the predisposition for varicose veins persists.

laser therapy

In an endovenous laser therapy, a thin laser fiber is introduced into the varicose vein via a puncture needle. Laser energy penetrates the vein via this fiber. Due to the extreme heat, the blood clumps and the inside of the veins is "overcooked".The varicose vein closes and can no longer carry blood.

radio waves

Radiowave therapy is used especially for varicose veins of the large trunk veins. This is a modern catheter procedure. Under ultrasound control, a radio-wave catheter is pushed into the affected vein. After the varicose vein has been locally anesthetized, the catheter is heated. The varicose veins shrink and are permanently closed.

Operational procedures

In varicose vein operations different methods are distinguished. For example, whole varicose veins can be removed (vein stripping). Other options include the removal of the so-called Crosse (junction of the surface veins in the leg main vein in the groin area) by means of crossectomy or the repair of diseased venous valves as a valve reconstruction. Whether the procedures are carried out under local anesthesia, spinal anesthesia or general anesthesia, is decided individually.

Physical measures against varicose veins

In varicose veins are often prescribed physical therapies. Among other things, cold-soothing showering, Kneipp's pouring, water treading or lower leg brushing with lower leg casts provide relief. Likewise, special venous exercises help the veins carry the blood back to the heart. In the late stages, additional therapeutic measures - especially lymphatic drainage - are often necessary to relieve the swollen leg.

Promises of salvation of horse chestnut and Co.

Furthermore, there are countless venous remedies. If we want to believe advertising, it may be no longer varicose veins or swollen legs due to a venous insufficiency. Whether tablet, capsule, gel, ointment, spray or cream: In most cases, these remedies do not really help. A subjective improvement in the symptoms is almost always due to the so-called placebo effect.

However, there are also bright spots - and active ingredients, which can actually be attributed a slightly decongestant effect. These include extracts of red vine leaves or horse chestnut as well as butcher's broom. Nevertheless, these agents can not replace compression therapy or even let a varix eradicate.


Whether varicose veins actually effectively prevent, remains among the experts controversial. In any case, it helps to prevent risk factors such as obesity and lack of exercise. Patients and physicians also report positive experiences with Kneipp's alternating baths for knees and lower legs as well as physiotherapeutic venous gymnastics.

More tips to prevent varicose veins:
  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods.
  • Rock your feet regularly.
  • Take a walk once a day, for example during lunch break.
  • Store your legs frequently elevated. This allows the blood to drain more easily to the heart.
  • Prefer flat shoes. High heels make the work of the muscle pump difficult.
  • Do not wear constricting clothes. Above all, the ankles, calves and hollows of the knee should not be restricted.
  • Shower your legs cold from bottom to top.
  • Drink enough water throughout the day.
  • Eat healthy and balanced.
  • Wear support or compression stockings on long bus, car or air travel.
  • Endurance sports (such as cycling, hiking or swimming) help prevent varicose veins.

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