Causes of Varicose Veins
What Causes Varicose Veins?
The circulatory system is made up of two major conduits. Arteries deliver blood from the heart to the bodily tissues under high pressure. Veins then return blood from the tissues to the heart. Normally, the pressure in the veins is low compared to the arteries.
The veins in the arms and legs have valves that keep blood flowing in the proper direction and prevent gravity from causing high pressure, particularly in the veins of the legs. Normally, the valves open to allow blood to flow toward the heart and close to prevent back flow.
If the valves malfunction, high pressure can develop and cause pooling of blood in the leg veins. This may cause varicose veins and leg swelling. In more advanced cases, damage to tissues may occur which can result in discoloration, inflammation, and ulceration.
The following are risk factors for developing varicose veins:
- Age. Varicose veins usually develop after the age of 30 and become progressively worse with time. Occasionally, significant varicose veins can develop even in teenagers.
- Gender. Women are much more likely than men to develop varicose veins. This is related to hormonal differences. The risk of developing varicose veins is especially increased due to pregnancy. The use of hormone replacement and birth control pills will also increase the risk of developing varicose veins.
- Genetics. Many people have a strong genetic predisposition to developing varicose veins. If you have family members with them, there is a greater chance that you will also develop them.
- Prolonged Standing. Occupations that require prolonged standing may increase the risk of developing varicose veins. This is particularly true if the individual has other predisposing factors.
Reduce Your Risk
The risk of developing varicose veins can be reduced by taking the following steps:
- Exercise. The muscles of the legs act as a pump to help return blood and minimize pooling.
- Lose weight.
- Avoid constrictive clothing around the calves and thighs. High heels minimize the effect of the calf muscle pump and reduce venous return.
- Elevate the legs. Elevating the legs above the level of the heart will greatly improve venous return.
- Avoid prolonged sitting or standing.
- Don't sit with your legs crossed.