CVG Insights: What Causes Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are the unsightly blue veins that occur predominantly in the legs and feet. In most cases, varicose veins, or a milder condition called spider veins, are simply a cosmetic issue with no health implications. However, in some people, varicose veins can be a symptom of a larger cardiovascular issue. That is why is it important to understand what is causing your varicose veins, how to treat them, and when to talk to you doctor.
What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are gnarled or enlarged veins that appear as dark blue or purple color and bulge out from underneath the skin. These veins can exist anywhere on the body but are most common on the legs and feet due to the pressure from prolonged standing or walking.
This condition often comes with uncomfortable and painful symptoms including burning, throbbing, aching, swelling, itching, and cramping in the legs and feet. Multiple studies have shown that varicose veins occur far more in women than in men; however, men can experience the same symptoms as women when dealing with this issue.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
So, what is causing your varicose veins? The condition develops when small valves in the veins become weak due to stress or pressure. Fully functioning valves are necessary to circulate blood flow, so weakened ones can lead to obstruction and pools of gathered blood. This causes the veins to bulge and protrude from the skin. This stress or pressure can be caused by a number of factors.
As a person ages, their veins can lose the elasticity they need to pump blood against gravity from the feet and lower legs all the way back to the heart. This means that blood that should be flowing to the heart drains back down to the legs to stay.
During pregnancy, a woman has more blood in her body, but she may also experience a change in blood circulation. This change in circulation is due to blood being distributed to different areas of the body in order to support the fetus. However, as a side effect, the legs may be receiving less blood circulation and varicose veins may occur.
Hormonal changes in women, including pre-menstruation and menopause, may cause a weakening of the veins. In fact, taking any sort of hormone replacement like birth control could cause a higher risk of varicose veins.
Prolonged Standing or Sitting
Being in one position too long can cause a lack of circulation. This is especially prevalent in people who work in an office or drive a truck as part of their job. Taking breaks throughout the day to stretch or change positions can help prevent varicose veins in these instances.
A recent genetic study reveals that height is “not just a correlated factor, but an underlying mechanism leading to varicose veins.” This may be due to the increased circulation requirements of someone who is taller than average. The study is the largest to date examining the link between genetics and varicose veins, and the findings will allow for better treatment options in the future.
When to See a Cardiologist
There are many things you can do at home to treat varicose veins. These include wearing compression stockings, elevating your legs and exercising more frequently. However, if your varicose veins do not improve over time or become worse after self-care treatment, you should consider speaking with a cardiologist about treatment options. In severe cases, varicose veins can lead to various cardiovascular concerns like blood clots and deep vein thrombosis.
If you have questions about how to treat or prevent your varicose veins, schedule an appointment with your nearest CVG today.