As a heart patient, you may look upon varicose veins more as a cosmetic issue or a minor nuisance compared with the seriousness of your cardiovascular disease. But varicose veins, the bulging of veins that occurs when the valves that help move blood along to the heart stop operating efficiently, can lead to physical discomfort and significant health problems. Its estimated that more than 45 million Americans have vein diseases of the legs. While varicose veins may not cause any symptoms at all, some people with the condition may experience heaviness of the leg, aching discomfort while standing, leg cramps and even itching. As varicose veins progress, the results can be dark pigmentation and eczema of the lower leg. And some patients may develop a painful inflammation of the veins, called superficial thrombophlebitis, says Cleveland Clinic vascular specialist Douglas Joseph, MD, who adds that advanced cases of varicose veins can lead to ulceration and infection of the skin.