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Why are some varicose veins different colors?

I have noticed on my legs that my varicose veins seem to be different colors in some places. Some veins are a little purple and some are bright red. Does the color of the varicose veins mean anything? Is one color more severe than the other?

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Doctors Answers (6)

The color of a vein viewed from the surface can range from red to purple to blue-green to a dark blue primarily due to the amount of oxygenation of the hemoglobin. In very small veins close to the surface of the skin, the blood can absorb oxygen directly through the skin surface and appear red in color (spider veins), for slightly larger and deeper surface veins, the color may be purple due to partial oxygenation and green to blue veins are still larger, deeper and have a low oxygen content (reticular veins). The more significant veins are the largest darker blue colored varicose veins that may be seen at the surface or may require an ultrasound to see well.

The deeper veins are usually blue/gray and are usually the cause of the smaller red/purple veins on your skin. The color of the vein does not matter. The only way to tell how severe your vein disease has become is to have an ultrasound performed.

Varicose veins can appear different in different areas of the body, when they have been present for different amount of times and the thickness of the skin over the area. At times there can actually be brownish/green pigmentation in the overlaying skin due to the vein inflammation and possible "leeching" of some iron from the blood into the surrounding tissue. Redness with tenderness can be a sign of inflammation (phlebitis) of the vein or even clotting (thrombophlebitis) in the vein. This would be the most severe situation. It is always better to be evaluated if concerned.

The technical reasons for different vein colors carries no significant meaning and does not signify degree of seriousness.

The different colors of varicose veins are the result of different amount of hemoglobin, from the red blood cells, in the vein. A large vein with a lot of blood will have quite a bit of hemoglobin, it will look purple to dark green while a very small vein, with only a tiny bit of hemoglobin, will look bright red. The difference is mostly the size of the vessel. There are a couple of other factors but I want to keep it simple.

Color in varicose veins depend on depth in relation to the skin, diameter of the vein and oxygen saturation.

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