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How Varicose Veins Are Diagnosed

By Pamela Roberts

If you notice that the superficial veins directly underneath your skin are swollen and bulging, there’s a good chance you have varicose veins. They will grow worse over time unless you seek treatment. The exception is varicosities that occur during pregnancy; they often dissipate on their own following childbirth.

Even though varicose veins are seldom dangerous, they can influence how you feel. As the blood vessels increasingly bunch and twist, you’ll experience fatigue, a heaviness in your legs, and a dull aching feeling. Eventually, you might see sores and rashes develop on your skin. It’s important to have the condition diagnosed so your doctor can make recommendations to minimize the symptoms. If the varicosities are severe, surgery may be an option.

This article will provide an overview of the most common steps taken to diagnose varicose veins. It’s worth noting that not all of the following tests (e.g. venogram) are done for every patient. Much depends on the risks of blood clots and other conditions suggested by the patient’s medical history.

Review Of Patient History And Physical Exam

Your physician will first inspect your current medical history and ask questions that help him or her identify possible risk factors that may contribute to varicosities. For example, you will be asked whether you normally sit or stand for long periods, when you experience discomfort, and whether the pain is persistent or fleeting.

Next, your doctor will perform a thorough physical examination. He or she will check the venous pattern in your legs, and look for areas that present tenderness, discoloration, swelling, and skin ulcers. A number of tests may be performed during this examination, including a blood pressure cuff.

Doppler Ultrasound To Inspect Blood Flow

A Doppler ultrasound is a diagnostic test used to study the flow of blood. A small device known as a transducer is passed over the legs. It sends out sounds waves, which bounce off blood cells and return to the transducer. An image of the flow of blood – or lack thereof – is created by a computer. A varicose vein that shows restricted blood flow can be easily identified on the image.

There are different types of Doppler ultrasounds, including a relatively new format called the Power Doppler. It is more sensitive than the other three approaches and can generate crisper, clearer images.

Is A Venogram Necessary?

If, for some reason, the Doppler ultrasound fails to produce a clear image of your veins, a venogram can be done. This test uses a special dye that shows up on x-rays. Not only can it display restricted blood vessels, but it can also show valve damage and signs of other conditions. One of the downsides of a venogram is that the special dye can cause an allergic reaction.

Duplex Scanning To Rule Out DVT

Some patients may have a history of clotting disorders in their family. If this is the case, your doctor may perform a Duplex scan to search for blood clots in your deep veins. The formation of blood clots in these veins is known as deep venous thrombosis (or, DVT).

While varicosities in the superficial veins are relatively benign, blood clots in the deep veins are more dangerous. They can break off and move into your lungs. Because DVT can often be identified through a venogram, Duplex scanning may be unnecessary.

Once varicose veins have been diagnosed, your doctor can create a treatment plan based on their severity and the extent of any damage. If the condition is minor, your doctor may recommend wearing compression stockings to prevent blood from pooling in your leg veins. If the condition is serious, he or she may suggest surgery (i.e. ligation, stripping, etc.). The important thing is to have your varicose veins diagnosed so the long-term risk to your health and comfort can be determined.

Find the right doctor to Treat Varicose Veins Early diagnosis can lead to successful results. Check out Health Facts

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Roberts, Pamela "How Varicose Veins Are Diagnosed." How Varicose Veins Are Diagnosed. 30 Jun. 2010. 27 Dec 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Roberts, P (2010, June 30). How Varicose Veins Are Diagnosed. Retrieved December 27, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Roberts, Pamela "How Varicose Veins Are Diagnosed"

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