Varicose veins are twisting blue and purple lines that are visible on the skin’s surface. The veins enlarge due to venous insufficiency – a condition in which blood cannot travel from the lower extremities to the heart as efficiently as it once did. The blood begins to pool in the lower legs and feet, leading to swelling in the veins. Over time as this progresses these veins can further progress to large and often painful varicose veins.
Nearly any vein of the body can become varicose, but the problem is most frequently seen in the thighs and lower legs. That is because this is the area where vessels have to work the hardest to pump blood back to the heart against the force of gravity. The tiny valves that keep blood flowing in a single direction in the lower limbs are more likely to wear out, allowing blood to reflux back into the vein.
Causes of Varicose Veins
There are a number of risk factors that can increase your odds for developing varicose veins, including:
- Heredity – If your mother had varicose veins, you have a greater likelihood of developing the condition as well.
- Age – While varicose veins only affect 15-25% of all adults, they are seen in one out of every two adults over the age of 50.
- Gender – Women are more likely to develop varicose veins than men.
- Weight Gain – Significant weight gain puts additional pressure on the veins in the lower legs, which can increase your risk for varicose veins.
- Pregnancy – Weight gain and hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy also liken the odds you will develop varicose veins.
- Long Periods of Standing – People who work at jobs that require long periods of standing are also more likely to see varicose veins develop on the lower limbs.
Varicose Vein Prevention
When you know the risk factors associated with varicose veins, it can be easier to take steps to prevent them. While nothing can reduce your risk for varicose veins entirely, these tips may help you minimize the condition:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Elevate the legs and feet whenever possible
- Use compression stockings to promote healthy blood flow
- Avoid extended periods of standing or sitting
While varicose veins may not be much more than a cosmetic concern, some people do develop uncomfortable symptoms with their varicose veins, including heaviness or achiness in the legs, swelling, muscle cramping or a feeling of restlessness in the legs. In more severe cases, venous insufficiency can also lead to the development of skin ulcers on the lower leg around the ankle, which can be difficult to treat and have a high recurrence rate.
If you are concerned about your varicose veins, there are many treatment options available today. Contact us at the PCI Vein Center to learn more about your choices in eliminating unsightly and painful varicose veins.