At this point, you may not even know them by name. Right now, you might just recognize them as those dark purple or blue veins on your calves or thighs. Or perhaps you have veins that are twisted and bulging above skin level. If so, there’s a chance you may have developed varicose veins.

How did they get there? Veins are the vessels that return oxygen-depleted blood to your heart – some 1,400 gallons of blood each day, in fact. When carrying blood from the lower extremities back to the heart, veins have to overcome the force of gravity, which is why they have a system of one-directional valves that open and close with every heartbeat – to keep blood pumping upward without allowing backflow.

However, over time or as a result of an injury, a valve within a vein can stop functioning properly or a vein wall can lose its elasticity, both of which can place more pressure on preceding valves. These factors can ultimately lead to unsightly bulging and/or discoloration of the vein.

And the symptoms may not always be visible ones. Other warning signs include an achiness or heavy feeling in your legs; burning, throbbing, muscle cramping and swelling in lower legs; worsened pain after sitting or standing for a long time; itching around one or more of your veins; bleeding from varicose veins; color changes, hardening of the vein, inflammation of the skin or skin ulcers near your ankle, which could be a sign of a more serious vascular disease.

If you think you may have varicose veins, you’re not alone. In fact, the condition affects approximately 35 percent of people in the United States. The good news is that there are several effective treatment options for removing varicose veins and promoting healthy circulation. In some cases of medical necessity, treatment is even covered by insurance.

It’s important to understand that varicose veins won’t go away on their own and, if left untreated, could contribute to the development of more varicose veins. To learn more about your symptoms and to get an accurate diagnosis, we recommend scheduling an appointment with a physician who specializes in treating varicose veins.

Dr. Jack Tarr of Vein Specialists of Tennessee has more than 30 years of experience treating patients in Knoxville and the surrounding East Tennessee area. Vein Specialists of Tennessee routinely treats varicose veins, spider veins, face veins, and venous ulcers through a spectrum of treatment options, including ultrasound-guided sclerotherapyendovenous laser ablation and microsurgical ambulatory phlebectomy.