Although physicians understand the symptoms and many risk factors for varicose veins, no one has determined exactly what causes the physical changes that lead to this disease.
When everything works as it should, your heart pumps oxygen-filled blood from your lungs through your arteries to organs and tissues. The oxygen-depleted blood then heads back via veins to the heart and lungs. In the legs, your muscles contract imperceptibly to help move the blood back through veins and up to your chest. One-way valves in your veins keep the blood from flowing backward. And the veins are elastic, which also promotes the gravity-defying movement of blood from the bottom of your feet back to your heart.
Why do varicose veins happen?
When the muscles stop contracting, or the one-way valves stop working, or the veins lose their elasticity – or everything breaks down at the same time – blood starts to pool in your legs.
The pooled blood extends the walls of your veins, causing them to bulge and twist, and probably turn color. Deep purple and red are the most common shades.
Why do the valves fail, the veins lose their elasticity and the muscles stop contracting? No one knows.
But who is more likely to get varicose veins?
But there is plenty of information about when the symptoms happen and who is more likely to get varicose veins.
For instance, more women will suffer from varicose veins, although the disease also affects men. Age is a factor, with 50 being a common time for signs to start appearing. And the tendency for varicose veins is inherited. You are especially at risk if a direct relative, like your mother or grandmother, had varicose veins.
People who stand all day, like teachers and police officers, are more likely to notice varicose veins. Symptoms sometimes start with pregnancy, too, and people who are overweight also are more likely to suffer from vein disease.
Although varicose veins cannot yet be prevented, doctors will recommend lifestyle changes to lesson symptoms and perhaps slow down progression of the disease if caught early enough. Your doctor will tell you to exercise, maintain a healthy weight and remember not to stand or sit too long. Compression stockings might make your legs feel better because they improve blood flow.
There is always medical intervention, too, and modern techniques to treat varicose veins occur with a visit to the office that will have you back to your regular activities the next day.
If you are concerned about varicose veins, or simply want to discuss symptoms, schedule a free appointment with one of our doctors.