Varicose veins are swollen, spider-like veins that can be seen just under the skin’s surface. These gnarly swollen veins often appear greenish or purplish. Varicose veins usually develop in the ankles, calf, and thigh but can also occur in other parts of the body.
This disorder is quite common, especially after the age of 30. It is also progressive in nature, which means that if left unmanaged, it will get worse over time. Knowing the reasons or the risk factors for varicose veins can help you take appropriate steps to prevent the disorder from occurring.
Varicose veins in the legs occur due to the veins’ inability to pump blood properly back to the heart. Many reasons can cause this insufficiency. Let us get to the causes of varicose veins to help you gauge the risk you are at of developing this venous disorder.
What are the Reason for Varicose Veins in Legs?
Varicose veins can be caused by weak or damaged valves in the veins. The heart pumps blood filled with oxygen and nutrients to the whole body through the arteries and veins, then carry the deoxygenated blood from the various body parts back to the heart.
In the legs, our veins have valves that act as one-way flaps that open and close continually to prevent blood from leaking back as it moves up your legs against the flow of gravity. If the valves become weak and the blood doesn’t flow properly through the veins in the legs, blood can start pooling in the lower legs, and varicose veins can form.
Causes of Varicose Veins
A number of factors can increase your risk of developing varicose veins in your legs. Some of the most common factors are:
Pregnancy is one of the most common risk factors for varicose veins.
The volume of blood in the mother’s body increases by approximately 50%. This puts some stress on the circulatory system. Along with this, the growing womb and hormonal changes put additional pressure on the veins of the legs.
All these changes increase the risk of developing varicose veins and even deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
With every successive pregnancy and age, the condition of the veins gets worse. However, it doesn’t affect the baby’s health in any way.
If the mother didn’t have varicose veins before the pregnancy, the condition improves after the birth. In most cases, the gnarly veins disappear entirely.
To prevent or minimize varicose veins during pregnancy, consider the following:
- Daily walking to help boost circulation
- Maintain the recommended weight range for each stage of pregnancy
- Elevate your legs as often as possible, as it alleviates the pressure and helps push the blood back to the heart
- Wear compression stockings to boost blood circulation, support veins, and prevent pain and swelling in the legs
Out of all the risk factors for varicose veins, being overweight is one of the most dangerous.
When you are overweight, you have low muscle mass and high body fat. The veins, therefore, have to work much harder to do the same work. This increases the risk of varicose veins substantially.
The risk of any health issue diminishes when detected and treated at an early stage. The main symptom of varicose veins is seeing the bulging, spider-like veins under the surface of your skin which people generally recognize and get medical attention.
People who are overweight, however, do not realize that they have varicose veins in their legs, as the purple veins are not visible on the surface of the skin due to excess fat.
When not cared for, varicose veins can lead to severe venous disorders and leg ulcerations.
Leg ulcers are caused when the pressure in the leaking veins starts damaging the skin, causing wounds. It’s highly common in overweight people, thanks to the delay in varicose veins diagnosis and successive treatment.
3) Standing or Sitting For Long Periods
Lack of movement, which could be due to our lifestyle or profession, has become a major cause for varicose veins in modern times.
Our calf muscles play a supporting role in pushing blood back up to the heart. As we walk, the calf muscles contract and expand continually to assist the veins in carrying blood against the flow of gravity. Sitting and standing for long hours at a stretch can hamper this process.
Prolonged and frequent sitting or standing can put your veins under considerable strain and hamper proper blood circulation. Over time, poor blood circulation could turn into varicose veins.
Another common reason for varicose veins is aging.
Aging causes wear and tear of the valves in the veins that help regulate blood flow.
After the age of 50, the valves in your veins grow increasingly weak, which could lead to blood flowing backward. Instead of going to the heart, the blood pools in your legs, leading to varicose veins.
Aging is a natural process, but you can delay the wear and tear of veins in your legs by taking good care of your venous health. A healthy diet and exercise can strengthen your vein health and further delay the onset of varicose veins.
5) Having Varicose Veins in Your Genes
Unfortunately, varicose veins are a hereditary disorder. If your parents or grandparents had varicose veins, it’s most likely that you will have to deal with them too.
Your genes can make you more susceptible to varicose veins, but if you take care of your vein health from an early age, you can prevent it from happening.
Some of these healthy habits include
- Low-impact exercises such as walking and biking
- Elevate legs above the heart for 10-15 minutes a day
- Wear compression stockings to boost blood flow
- Avoid standing or sitting for extended periods of time
Maintain a healthy weight
Compression therapy is one of the most effective ways of preventing and managing varicose veins in legs. They facilitate the circulation of blood from your veins to the heart reducing the pressure on your weak veins. Consult a doctor to find the right level of compression for your condition before buying yourself a pair of compression stockings.
Varicose veins are a form of chronic venous insufficiency which can easily be managed with compression therapy and adopting a healthy lifestyle.
While varicose veins are a common disorder and there are a number of risk factors for this condition, it can easily be managed with proper medical guidance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Do varicose veins go away?
Ans: No, varicose veins don’t go away on their own, but with proper care and treatment, they can become less painful and visible.
Q2. Should you massage varicose veins?
Ans: Massage therapies that aim to increase circulation and improve tissue nutrition are beneficial to patients with varicose veins.
Q3. How do you prevent varicose veins?
Ans: Varicose veins can be prevented by making simple lifestyle changes. Try the following tips:
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid standing or sitting for long hours at a stretch
- Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes
- Elevate your legs every day
- Wear compression stocking
Q4. Do you put ice or heat on varicose veins?
Ans: Icing shrinks your veins alleviating pain and swelling and providing instant relief. Hot showers can be tempting, but cold water is a much better option when dealing with varicose veins.