Varicose Veins: Unsightly in Summer Shorts and a Major Health Concern for Your Feet!

Varicose veins affect primarily women as they age and veins become tortuous and enlarged. While this may be less concerning during the cold Columbus winters when legs are covered, varicose veins pose a cosmetic problem in the summer when shorts and bathing suits place them prominently on display. While varicose veins may be a cause of increased self-consciousness, they can more importantly be a cause of serious health problems in the foot and ankle year round.

Varicose veins occur in the leg when increased blood pools and disrupts the function of valves that normally keep blood flowing in the correct direction. This allows excess blood to accumulate in the vein and greatly enlarge the vessel’s diameter, causing it to appear more prominently. Aside from being cause for cosmetic concern, these veins can become painful. One condition that can be caused by varicose veins in the ankle is called “tarsal tunnel syndrome”. The nerve passing through the ankle into the foot becomes impinged upon by the enlarged vein. When the nerve is impinged it causes pain, and burning or tingling that may radiate into the foot and toes. This burning foot pain will typically increase with activity, and be lessened with rest. Numbness in the foot and weakness of the foot muscles may also occur.

When blood accumulates excessively in a blood vessel, fluid will lead out into the surrounding tissue causing swelling, or edema. When edema occurs in patients with varicose veins for an extended period of time, tissue breakdown and ulcers can develop in the foot. In addition, varicose veins will often cause the surrounding tissue to be pruritic, or itchy. Chronic scratching with weakened tissue compounds the risk of developing ulcer and infection. This is of especially important concern in individuals with diabetes who are already predisposed to infection and ulceration if they have some loss of sensation in the feet.

Luckily, patients can work to prevent and slow the development of varicose veins. Exercising and weight control are two ways to keep the leg and foot veins open and flowing properly. In patients already developing varicosities and slowed venous blood flow, their podiatrist can recommend specific types of socks called compression socks or stockings that help to better circulate the blood and keep it from pooling in the legs. Other treatment options including a special type of soft cast may also be required if severe swelling and heightened risk of ulceration develop.

Please visit for more information or call 614-885 FEET (3338) to schedule an appointment with a podiatrist in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus Podiatry & Surgery is located on the North side of Columbus, Ohio near Worthington.

By Dr. Animesh (Andy) Bhatia