Varicose veins are easily recognized by their twisted, rope-like appearance. These unsightly veins have malfunctioning vein valves which inhibit proper blood flow, and they can develop due to a variety of factors. Managing those factors that you can control will help you reduce your risk of developing varicose veins.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Malfunctioning Vein Valves
Healthy veins have vein valves that help the blood flow toward the heart. When vein valves malfunction, they interfere with the body’s natural blood flow and circulation. Blood may stand or pool in the affected vein, or it may even flow backward away from the heart instead of toward it. Malfunctioning vein valves are the direct cause of varicose veins.
But what causes vein valves to malfunction in the first place? Each of the following can contribute to venous malfunction and lead to the formation of varicose veins.
Risk Factors for Varicose Veins
Here are some of the most common risk factors for varicose veins:
Family History of Vein Problems
Like many medical conditions, vein problems tend to run in families. If your parents or other close family members have had varicose veins, you may be more likely to develop them yourself. There is nothing you can do to change your genetics, but knowing your family’s medical history can help you know what to watch out for and how to be prepared. It should also encourage you to meet with a vein specialist to determine your personal risk factors and assess any venous problems at the earliest sign.
Pregnancy and Hormones
Pregnancy and hormonal changes can cause varicose veins. During pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume increases and puts more pressure on the circulatory system, causing the veins to have to work harder and increasing the likelihood of vein valve malfunction. The weight of the growing baby also increases pressure on the leg veins during pregnancy. Additionally, hormonal changes such as during menopause can contribute to vein valve malfunction and increase the risk of varicose veins.
Trauma or Injury
Any trauma or injury can damage a vein or vein valve and lead to the formation of a varicose vein. Even individuals who are otherwise at low risk of varicose veins could develop a varicose vein from an injury or traumatic incident.
Obesity or Weight Gain
Excess body weight is associated with increased risk of varicose vein development. For individuals struggling with long-term obesity or sudden major weight gain, the body’s circulatory system becomes overburdened and the opportunity for venous malfunction increases.
Prolonged Sitting or Standing
Frequent standing or sitting in place for extended periods of time limits circulation. The circulatory system needs regular body movement to encourage healthy blood flow. Individuals who have a sedentary lifestyle, work a desk job, or work a job that requires them to stand still for long periods of time are all more likely to develop varicose veins.
Tips to Minimize Your Risk of Varicose Veins
Not only are they considered unsightly, varicose veins cause symptoms like leg pain, swelling, heaviness, burning, itching, restlessness, discoloration, and in more severe cases, leg ulcers, bleeding, and superficial thrombophlebitis. Knowing what causes varicose veins helps us develop strategies to reduce risk. The following can help you minimize your risk of developing varicose veins:
- Wear compression stockings during pregnancy
- Avoid prolonged sitting or standing
- Regularly elevate your legs and feet
- While sitting, standing, or lying down, flex your ankles and move your legs occasionally
- Get up and walk around every so often
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Avoid excess weight gain
- Exercise caution when participating in activities that are more likely to cause injury or trauma
- Get spider veins or early varicose veins investigated quickly before they become more serious
- Meet with a vein specialist for more personal tips
For more information, meet with one of our vein experts at Vein Specialists of Augusta. Call (706) 854-8340 or contact us online to schedule your appointment today.