VA Question of the Week: What exactly are varicose veins? I have blue veins on my legs but I do not know what kind they are. I have had them for a few years and they have gotten darker. They look tangled and hurt sometimes. How do I know what kind of veins they are?

By definition, varicose veins are abnormal veins greater than 3 mm in diameter that protrude under the skin and have pooling blood. They frequently look blue, but can look greenish, purple, or black, or they can be colorless-just causing the skin to bulge but the skin looks normal in color. They can cause pain or they can be painless. Over time, varicose veins can get darker, larger, more painful, and even form blood clots.

Reticular veins are like varicose veins, except narrower. By definition they are 1-3 mm in diameter, so they are not as large and they do not bulge as much as varicose veins. They can be just as noticeable because they are closer to the top layer of the skin, and they are blue or bluish green. They can cause skin discomfort, itching, and burning, or they can cause no symptoms.

Spider veins are very thin (less than 1 mm diameter) abnormal veins on the surface of the skin. They can be red, blue, purple, or blackish. They are usually in clusters, and they usually cause no symptoms, but sometimes they can cause burning, itching, or dryness of the skin.

More information about varicose veins.