Dark purple or blue leg veins that bulge, twist and look like ropey cords are the visual sign of venous insufficiency, according to Mayo Clinic. When they cause pain, the symptoms can include heavy and achy legs, muscle cramps and throbbing in the calves, itching and ulcerations near the ankles.
Often, venous insufficiency produces changes in the color of the skin, adds WebMD. It can cause large varicose veins as well as smaller, closer-to-the-surface spider veins. Weakened or damaged valves in the leg veins that are designed to allow blood to flow only one way, back up to the heart, are the cause of the condition explains Mayo Clinic. When the valves are weak, the blood leaks back down into the lower legs and pools. This results in increased pressure inside the leg veins, which stretches them, causing the bulging appearance and often painful symptoms.
Venous insufficiency has a genetic component, so individuals with a family history of the condition are at risk, reports WebMD. It can also be caused by high blood pressure and deep vein thrombosis inside the leg veins. Additional risk factors include advanced age, excess weight, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle and being a female. Medical-grade compression stockings are often an effective treatment when worn during the day, and exercises that pump the leg muscles and increase blood flow, such as walking and running, are also helpful ways to manage venous insufficiency.