Typically, most people think of varicose veins as the twisting, bulging veins on the legs, and for good reason: They are the most common location for visible varicose veins. Thanks to gravity, veins in the legs have to work extra hard to bring blood back to the heart, so problems with the vein walls or valves can quickly lead to reflux of blood in the veins.
That said, the legs aren’t the only location you’ll find enlarged veins, even if you can’t always see them. Here are other problems associated with varicose veins, according to Kira Minkis, MD, PhD, dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine:
Hemorrhoids: These are a swollen vein inside or on the anus or rectum, and they cause itching, pain, and/or bleeding. They’re typically caused by straining and are common among people who experience chronic constipation or diarrhea.
Varicoceles: These are enlarged veins in the scrotum, or the sac of skin that holds the testicles. They tend to form during puberty but may grow over time. They’re often harmless, but can sometimes lower sperm production and affect fertility.
Gastroesophageal varices: These are enlarged veins in the stomach or esophagus, and they’re common in people who have cirrhosis of the liver. That’s because scarring caused by cirrhosis obstructs blood flow and causes higher pressure in the portal vein—a vein that moves blood from the intestines to the liver. These can be dangerous due to the high risk of rupture and gastric bleeding, which can be fatal.
Some varicose veins beyond the legs don’t need treatment, such as varicoceles. Many men live with varicoceles and it has no effect on their lives. Hemorrhoids can be painful or a nuisance, but they can be treated with lifestyle changes and/or medications, such as topical creams to reduce pain and swelling.
Gastroesophageal varices are the biggest medical concern, due to the life-threatening risk of gastric bleeding. The goal of treatment is to reduce the risk of bleeding, which includes lifestyle changes (losing weight and avoiding alcohol), medications like beta blockers, and a procedure known as variceal band ligation.
If you think you have some type of varicose veins—on your legs or elsewhere—talk to your doctor. You may be eligible for certain treatment options that could improve your quality of life, and in some cases, even save your life. Learn more about the benefits of seeking varicose veins treatment early here.