Vein Problems | Heart and Vascular

Heart and Vascular Care

Vein Problems

At the UC Davis Vascular Center, our specialists treat all types of vein problems. We offer the latest minimally invasive therapies for conditions such as spider veins, varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis.

Medically reviewed by Mimmie Kwong, M.D. on June 29, 2023.

Close up of person’s leg with spider veins while pushing child in a swing

What Is Venous Disease?

Vein problems are also called venous disease or venous disorders. They all involve veins, the blood vessels that carry blood back to your heart.

Venous disease usually happens in your lower body but can also happen in other areas. Swelling in your legs or arms is a typical sign of vein problems.


Types of Venous Disease

Types of venous disease include:

  • Blood clots in your limbs or internal organs.
  • Chronic venous insufficiency, which causes your legs to swell when blood pools in leg veins.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot in a deep vein of your leg or arm.
  • Superficial thrombophlebitis, a condition where blood clots form near the surface of your skin and may be painful.
  • Varicose veins and spider veins, visible bulging veins or webs of veins just under your skin.

Symptoms of Vein Problems

Some vein problems have mild symptoms or no symptoms. Others may not be dangerous but can be painful.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms depend on the type of vein problem and may include:

  • Aches and pains
  • Bulging, visible veins
  • Heaviness in your leg
  • Red or discolored skin
  • Swelling or edema (fluid retention)
  • Ulcers (open sores) near a damaged vein

Emergency Symptoms

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can become a pulmonary embolism if a blood clot breaks off and goes into your lungs. This condition is a medical emergency. Call 911 if you have symptoms such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing with or without bloody mucous
  • Feeling lightheaded or fainting
  • Heart palpitations (rapid heartbeat)
  • Sweaty, clammy skin
  • Swelling in your legs
  • Trouble breathing

Causes and Risk Factors of Vein Problems

Vein problems happen because of inflammation or weakness in the walls of your veins. Sometimes venous disease is congenital (present at birth). High blood pressure also weakens veins and may lead to problems.

There are factors that can increase your risk for venous disease, including:


Venous disease becomes more likely as you get older.

Family History

Venous disease can run in families.


During pregnancy, you have more blood in your body. Extra blood increases the pressure in your veins.


Extra body weight puts more pressure on lower body veins.


Spending long periods sitting or standing can weaken veins in your legs. Smoking also increases your risk.


Hormone medications such as birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy may increase your risk.


Diagnosing Vein Problems

Our specialists can diagnose some types of venous disease during a physical exam. Other types require scans or tests.

At UC Davis Health, we use the latest diagnostic techniques and equipment. Many of our diagnosis methods are noninvasive or minimally invasive.

We may recommend several tests to help diagnosis vein problems, including: 

  • Angiogram, an imaging test that shows how blood is flowing through your blood vessels. 
  • Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI), which detects blocked or narrowed blood vessels. 
  • CT (computed tomography) scan, an imaging test that uses several X-rays to show the structures of your veins. 
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), a scan that shows detailed images of the veins inside your body. 
  • Ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create an image that helps reveal where vein problems may be. 

Venous Disease Treatments at UC Davis Health

The treatments for vein problems vary depending on the type of problem and how much it affects your life.

Our specialists at the UC Davis Vascular Center treat all vein problems. From minimally invasive outpatient procedures to critical care, we provide all levels of treatment.

Common treatments for vein problems include:


Special compression stockings support the veins in your legs and keep blood from pooling. You can also use compression sleeves on your arms.


We may prescribe anticoagulants, which prevent blood from clotting, or thrombolytics, which dissolve blood clots.

Minimally Invasive Procedures

We use laser therapy, radiofrequency therapy and sclerotherapy to shrink and dissolve damaged veins. These leading-edge therapies allow you to have a faster recovery with less risk than surgery.

Learn more about the UC Davis Vascular Center Vein Program

Our vascular surgeons are skilled in removing blood clots (thrombectomy) and damaged veins. As the largest vascular surgery center in the region, we are a nationally recognized referral center for these complex procedures.

Find out more about our Division of Vascular Surgery

Preventing Vein Problems

Many types of vein problems aren’t preventable. You can reduce your risk by not sitting or standing for long periods of time, staying at a healthy weight and not smoking.

Who gets blood clots?

900KAdults in the U.S. per year

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Venous Thromboembolism (Blood Clots)

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