Varicose Veins Causes
Varicose veins are caused by many things, although the reasons why some people get varicose veins are not entirely understood. Some cases may be caused by genetic factors or pregnancy, while others are caused by poor lifestyle choices and inactivity. Following are some factors known to contribute to the development of varicose veins:
It is not uncommon for women to develop their first varicose veins during pregnancy. Women who are pregnant have increased blood pressure in their legs, and this pressure, along with the increased pressure caused by pregnancy weight gain, puts extra strain on blood vessels. Carrying multiple fetuses increases the risk of varicose veins. Pregnant women should try not to stand for long periods of time, and they should keep their legs elevated when sitting in order to facilitate good blood flow.
Women are much more likely to have varicose veins than men. This is because women experience many hormone fluctuations through their lives, and hormone changes are believed to cause vein walls to weaken. In addition to the naturally occurring hormone fluctuations that happen during pregnancy, menstruation and menopause, women often experience drug-induced hormone changes when taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.
While obesity in and of itself does not necessarily cause varicose veins, it can make them worse. In the same way pregnancy weight increases pressure in the legs, obesity does the same, and this may cause swelling or damage valves in the legs. In addition, many obese people are not active, and inactivity can decrease circulation and worsen varicose vein symptoms.
Most people with varicose veins are adults over the age of 50. As people age, their veins undergo a lot of wear and tear. This wear and tear damages valves, causing them to grow weak and begin to leak. As valves weaken, blood flow is impaired and begins to pool in the valves instead of making its way to the heart. This pooled blood may cause bulging, twisted, and painful varicose veins.
Some people may do everything right to prevent varicose veins such as exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, and avoid sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time, yet they still develop varicose veins. This may be due to genetics. Varicose veins caused by lifestyle choices usually develop later in life, but hereditary vein problems often begin at a very young age. Unfortunately, for people who have family members with varicose veins, there is no known way to avoid getting them, but healthy lifestyle choices can help keep symptoms at a minimum.
High Blood Pressure
Anything causing high blood pressure in the legs can cause varicose veins to form. This happens because high blood pressure weakens the valves over time leading to poor circulation and blood pooling. Any activity that causes high blood pressure, such as smoking, eating fatty foods and inactivity should be avoided to maintain optimal vein health. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure may not only reduce the risk of developing varicose veins, but can also help keep the entire vascular system working well.
No matter what their cause, varicose veins symptoms can range from being a nuisance to severe. Understanding the causes of varicose veins can help determine the best course of treatment.
Varicose Veins Symptoms
Many people with varicose veins do not have obvious symptoms. Others suffer mild to severe symptoms such as pain, burning, and numbness. In addition, some cases of varicose veins cause strictly visual symptoms like skin discoloration, bulging, and swelling. These symptoms can be mild or severe, and they may be debilitating and life-altering.
Pain and Burning in the Legs
One of the primary symptoms that people with varicose veins experience is pain and burning. Pain may be described as a constant aching or throbbing, or as a sharp and localized burning. The pain is often caused after sitting or standing for long periods of time, and it may be severe and debilitating or very mild. Veins that are bulging may hurt when touched. Moving around frequently, staying activeand wearing compression stockings can help reduce varicose vein pain.
A Heavy or Tired Feeling in the Legs
A heavy or tired feeling in the legs is often a symptom of poor circulation and varicose veins. This symptom can make it difficult to walk for long periods of time. It is not unusual for people with varicose veins to complain about heaviness in the legs after exercise or at night. Wearing compression hose during exerciseand avoiding too much standing exercise may help relieve the heavy leg feeling.
The inflammation caused by varicose veins causes severe itching in some people. This itching is usually in the legs, ankles or feet. While it may seem that anti-itch lotions and creams should relieve symptoms, this is not the case because the itching originates from the vein and not the skin. In most cases, the underlying vein needs to be treated in order to relive the itching.
When there are varicose veins present in the legs, red blood cells escape. These cells may travel to the skin and cause discoloration. This discoloration usually begins as a brown color around the ankles, but may also look red. As time goes on, the discoloration will more than likely spread from the ankles to the lower leg. Since skin discoloration usually indicates a more serious vein problem, if this symptom is left untreated, sores and ulcers may form.
Swelling in the Legs, Ankles, or Feet
Normally, blood flow in the legs is continuous and one-way from the lower leg to the upper leg. In people with varicose veins, the valves do not perform correctly, and the blood flow pools in the lower legs. This pooling often causes swelling, especially after sitting or standing for extended periods. In some cases, swelling may indicate a more serious problem, like a blood clot. If swelling causes severe pain or is accompanied by warmth and redness, a doctor should be consulted immediately.
The symptoms of varicose veins can be hard to deal with. When someone has varicose veins, it is important that the necessary steps are taken to prevent symptoms from becoming worse, or complications developing. These steps include eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular exercise and practicing other home remedies such as massage or hydrotherapy.
Varicose Veins Prevention
Many people in the United States suffer from unsightly varicose veins and the pain they cause. While some cases of varicose veins are genetic in nature, many are caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices. There are several things a person can do to help prevent the likelihood of developing varicose veins.
Keep the Blood Flowing
A primary reason varicose veins form is because of reduced blood flow. People who have sedentary lifestyles, an illness that requires prolonged bed rest, or a job requiring them to sit for prolonged periods of time are at a much higher risk of developing varicose veins. Elevating the legs, flexing the calf and ankles while sitting, and getting up and taking short walks throughout the day are all ways to help keep the blood flowing freely throughout the legs.
Wear Support/Compression Stockings
People at high risk of developing varicose veins may want to consider wearing compression stockings to reduce this risk. Compression stockings help force the blood back towards the heart, reducing pooling. They are especially useful if worn on long car or airplane trips. Compression stockings can usually be purchased at a pharmacy, but they may also be prescribed by a doctor.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Varicose veins are often caused by excess body weight that puts increased pressure on the legs. People who are overweight are much more likely to develop varicose veins than those whose weight is at a healthy number. In addition, overweight people are more likely to live a sedentary lifestyle, which is also a risk factor for developing varicose veins; maintaining a healthy weight can greatly reduce this risk.
Exercise is arguably the number one thing a person can do for overall good health, and it definitely helps prevent varicose veins. Regular exercise keeps the legs in motion, reduces blood pooling and improves circulation. While any exercise is beneficial, those involving the calf muscle, such as biking, swimming and stair climbing, are especially helpful in preventing varicose veins.
Wearing high heeled shoes may put people at an increased risk of developing varicose veins. This is because high heels do not require the calf muscle to contract when walking. Wearing lower heel shoes when walking causes the calf muscle to work harder and improves blood flow. In addition, people should avoid wearing tight-waisted clothes like girdles that could reduce blood flow.
Avoid Extreme Heat
It may seem that heat would be soothing to the legs, but too much could lead to an increased risk of developing varicose veins. Excessive heat can cause swelling in the veins and lead to blood pooling. While an occasional soak in a hot tub or bath probably will not do much harm, it may be wise to limit heat exposure in order to decrease the risk of developing vein issues.
While some cases of varicose veins are inevitable, others may be preventable. As with many other health conditions, the risk of developing vein problems can be decreased by making healthy lifestyle choices like exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy body weight.