Varicose Vein Symptoms vs. Bruising: How To Tell the Difference - Medicus Vein Care

Varicose Vein Symptoms vs. Bruising: How To Tell the Difference

woman holding a bruised leg

Table of Content

  • What Are Varicose Veins?
  • Varicose Veins Symptoms
  • Varicose Vein vs. Bruise: Which Is It?
  • When Should You Worry?
  • Talk to a Vein Specialist

Whoever you are, whatever your age, one thing is true — your body changes. One day you look down, and your leg has a new blue-purple spot.

If you’ve heard of varicose veins or have them in your family, you might link to “varicose veins symptoms” to see if that’s the issue. Or is it just a bruise?

Don’t worry — these moments are completely normal. Most varicose veins and bruises are harmless. Still, it always helps to know what’s going on with your body. Keep reading to learn more about varicose veins, bruising, and how to tell the difference.

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are twisted, swollen blood vessels that usually appear near the skin’s surface.1 They’re typically bluish-purple and cause the skin’s surface to protrude slightly. This causes their characteristic lumpy, rope-like appearance.

Approximately 23% of U.S. adults have varicose veins.2 They happen when the walls or valves of the leg veins become weak or damaged, often due to increased blood pressure.3

Most varicose veins aren’t dangerous, but they might make you self-conscious. Many people with varicose veins feel the need to hide their legs, avoiding skirts or shorts even in hot weather. 

Varicose veins might also cause pain or discomfort.

Varicose Veins Symptoms

Some varicose veins are a purely cosmetic issue. Others cause uncomfortable symptoms like:

  • Heaviness or tiredness in the legs
  • Throbbing or aching pain
  • Itching around the affected vein
  • Nighttime leg cramps
  • Swollen feet and ankles
  • Increased discomfort after prolonged standing or sitting

These symptoms tend to accompany fully developed varicose veins. If you’re just starting to get varicose veins, you may notice these early warning signs:

  • Shiny-looking skin
  • Changes in skin tone
  • Aching or itchy legs
  • Leg cramps after walking
  • Red spots on the legs
  • Newly visible leg veins

These symptoms could indicate a weakening of the vein walls, a common cause of varicose veins. Be on the lookout, especially if varicose veins run in your family or you have other risk factors.

Risk Factors of Varicose Veins

A family history of varicose veins significantly increases your risk. One study showed that if both parents have varicose veins, that couple’s children have a 90% risk of developing the condition.

Women are more likely to develop varicose veins, partially because of the hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Hormone-based birth control and hormone replacement therapy also increase your risk.5

Additional risk factors include:

  • Older age
  • Being overweight
  • Long periods of standing or sitting
  • A history of blood clotting or vein problems

If you’re at risk for varicose veins or think you’re developing early symptoms, talk to a vein specialist about how to keep your veins healthy

Preventing Varicose Veins

If you’re at risk of varicose veins, every preventive measure helps.

Eat healthily, stay hydrated, and keep moving. Gradient compression stockings also help by stimulating healthy blood flow in the lower leg.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on your legs for any skin changes. For example, discoloration might be a sign of varicose veins — or it might just be a bruise.

Varicose Vein vs. Bruise: Which Is It?

Varicose veins aren’t the only cause of discoloration and pain in the legs. Bruising can do the same, though the two issues are very different.

What Is a Bruise?

A bruise happens due to an injury that damages blood vessels but doesn’t break the skin. Those damaged vessels break open and leak under the skin, and the blood starts to pool. This pooled blood causes the discoloration you notice as a bruise.6

Bruises are usually reddish at first before becoming blue-purple. Most become greenish-yellow as they start to fade. The fading process can take weeks to months, depending on the severity of the bruise.

Everyone gets bruises occasionally, though some people are more prone to bruising than others. 

You’re more prone to varicose veins and bruising if you’re older. Older people bruise more easily because their skin becomes thinner.7 Vitamin C or K deficiency can also increase your risk of bruising. So can a family history of easy bruising.

Do Varicose Veins Cause Bruising?

Without an external injury, varicose veins don’t cause bruising. A varicose vein is bulging and weakened — but it isn’t broken, so it shouldn’t leak.

However, a varicose vein can rupture or leak if bumped hard enough. The vein is close to the surface, and the vein walls are already compromised, so it takes less force to break than a healthy vein. 

If you start to get bruises on a particular part of your leg regularly, look for other signs of varicose veins.

When Should You Worry?

Varicose veins aren’t usually hazardous to your health, but there are instances when you should get them checked out. Talk to a vein specialist if:

You experience new pain or discomfort. If your varicose veins suddenly start to hurt or itch, consider getting them checked out.

Your symptoms are getting worse. Untreated varicose veins can get progressively weaker, which causes increased pain and discomfort. Treatment may help to slow the progression and make you more comfortable.

Your quality of life is affected. If your varicose veins make it harder to live your life as usual, it’s time to seek treatment. Even if it’s “just” a self-image issue, you deserve to live your life fully.

Talk to a Vein Specialist

Medicus Vein Care is an established, patient-driven practice, dedicated to excellent care. If you’re feeling discomfort every day, call us! Meet with our vein specialist for a free consultation to understand why you have symptoms and what we can do to get you back on your feet again, comfortably.


1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. ” Varicose Veins.”

2. Circulation.Varicose Veins.” 

3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. ” Varicose Veins.”

4. Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics. A Review of Familial, Genetic, and Congenital Aspects of Primary Varicose Vein Disease.”

5. MedlinePlus: ” Varicose veins.”

6. MedlinePlus: ” Bruises.”

7. NIH News In Health. ” Bruising Questions: The What, Why, and How of Bruises.”