Table Of Contents

Varicose veins are often considered just a cosmetic concern, but they can become a serious health issue if they reach advanced stages.

While this doesn’t happen often, understanding the stages of varicose veins is key to recognizing and addressing potential concerns before they become dangerous.

Our vein specialists in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, are well aware of the importance of early diagnosis of vein issues. In this article, we’ll talk about how to spot and deal with changes in your varicose veins, including the progression of varicose vein development to the potential risks of varicose veins in advanced stages.

Stage 1: Vein Swelling

The very first phase of varicose veins is deceptive, as it all happens beneath the skin’s surface. Before visible signs appear, you may experience discomfort from cramps, burning sensations, itching, and heaviness or fatigue in the legs and ankles.

These sensations, which are easy to miss, can intensify in frequency, gradually becoming more than just an annoyance. This stage serves as a warning, prompting individuals to notice the evolving symptoms before they become visibly apparent.

Stage 2: Crawling or Spider-Like Veins

As varicose veins progress to stage 2, subtle indicators become more noticeable and appear on the skin’s surface. Spider-like veins emerge, presenting as blue or purple lines on the skin.

While these veins are typically harmless, some individuals experience burning, pain, or aching sensations associated with these visible lines. Recognizing these signs early on allows for proactive measures to manage symptoms and potentially prevent further progression, whether through at-home remedies or medical intervention like vein treatment.

Stage 3: Enlarged or Swollen Veins (Varicosities)

Entering stage 3, varicose veins become more prominent, taking on darker purple, red, or blue hues. The veins collapse and fill with stagnant blood, causing skin discoloration, itching, pain, and heaviness.

Daily activities like wearing certain fabrics or applying skincare products may become uncomfortable. At this point, varicose veins can present more substantial challenges, potentially leading to bleeding, ulcers, and slow-healing sores. 

Stage 4: Edema and Leg Fatigue

In the fourth stage of varicose vein development, the condition progresses to a point where severe varicosities cause blood to pool within the legs. This accumulation of blood results in notable swelling, particularly evident during the evenings or after extended periods of standing. 

At this stage, you may experience a pronounced, heavy sensation in your legs, making daily activities more challenging. Left unaddressed, the persistent pooling of blood can lead to increased discomfort, heightened pain levels, and an elevated risk of complications such as skin changes, ulcers, or other vascular issues.

Stage 5: Ankle Changes

Advancing to Stage 5, recognized as Ankle Changes, the manifestation of varicose veins becomes more intricate.

The most apparent symptom is swelling, as the veins on the ankles may become visibly enlarged, contributing to a sense of discomfort and, at times, pain. This discomfort can intensify after prolonged periods of standing or specific activities, impacting your mobility and daily routines.

Additionally, itching or burning sensations may accompany these changes, further adding to the overall discomfort. Ankle changes in varicose veins can also lead to heightened sensitivity in the affected area, making it more susceptible to irritation and pain.

Stage 6: Skin Changes

As we progress to Stage 6, the impact of varicose veins extends beyond the surface, affecting the skin in noticeable ways. At this point, damaged veins instigate unexpected skin texture and color alterations, signifying a more advanced stage of the condition.

One of the prominent symptoms experienced during this stage is a shift in skin color. The affected skin areas may take on a darker hue, often described as shades of purple or red. This change indicates compromised blood circulation and heightened pressure within the damaged veins. Alongside this discoloration, the skin can change in texture, becoming notably harder and less pliable.

Sensitivity to pain becomes more pronounced in areas where the skin is affected by varicose veins. People may find that the skin in these areas is more reactive, responding to touch or pressure with increased discomfort.

Stage 7: Ulcers on the Legs or Ankles

The final stage represents a critical point in varicose veins development, where serious, painful, and slow-healing wounds or ulcers may form on the legs and ankles. Advanced ulcers can lead to infections, emitting fluid or pus and increasing the risk of life-threatening blood clots. Medical attention becomes imperative to mitigate the impact of the disease on overall health and quality of life.


Understanding the stages of varicose veins allows individuals to recognize early warning signs, seek appropriate medical advice, and take proactive measures to manage symptoms effectively.

If you’re experiencing symptoms at any stage, seeking consultation with a vein specialist in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area can provide you with the guidance you need for tailored treatment options and improved overall well-being.

Remember, varicose veins can affect anyone, and addressing them promptly ensures a healthier and more comfortable future.