Varicose veins are a common problem. Over one-third of the adult population has some form of vein disease. But what are the main varicose veins causes and symptoms of varicose veins? In this article we will answer those questions, as well as provide information on risk factors and possible complications of varicose veins.
Varicose Vein Symptoms
Symptoms of varicose veins can vary from person to person, but they generally include:
- Bulging, purple or bluish veins on the legs, feet and ankles
- Smaller, web-like spider veins almost anywhere on the body
- A burning or itching sensation in the legs
- Leg and ankle swelling and/or pain in the legs
- A “heavy legs” feeling
If you experience these vein symptoms, it is important to be evaluated by a vein specialist quickly. This is because varicose veins won’t get better on their own – in fact they will only progress without treatment.
Varicose Veins Causes
Varicose veins are caused when the tiny valves inside our veins become weakened or damaged, often due to age, heredity or pregnancy. These valves are responsible for moving the blood in our veins upward from our feet to our heart, against gravity. When these valves fail, the veins can become “leaky” and blood can move downward and collect in the lower extremities. This extra blood can lead to swelling and the distended, unsightly veins we know of as varicose veins.
What are the most important risk factors for varicose veins?
- Sex: Both men and women suffer from varicose veins, although women tend to get them more often due to hormonal changes and pregnancy.
- Age: As we age, our veins lose some of their elasticity. Losing elasticity can make it harder for the valves in our veins to work properly and easier for the blood to move downwards towards our feet.
- Heredity is an important risk factor: if you have a family history of vein disease, then you are more likely to develop it as well.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese places extra stress on the veins, making it harder for them to do their job of propelling the blood upwards to our hearts.
- Pregnancy: Pregnancy increases the amount of blood flowing through your pelvis and upper body, to support the growing baby, and reduces blood volume in the veins of the legs and feet. In addition, the growing uterus places extra stress on the lower half of the body, possibly aggravating varicose veins.
- Standing or sitting for long periods of time: Your circulation doesn’t work as well when you must spend extended periods of time on your feet or sitting at a desk or on a plane. That’s why frequent breaks to change position are recommended if your job requires you to maintain one position for many hours.
Complications of Varicose Veins
If left untreated, varicose veins can present some rather unpleasant consequences, such as leg ulcers, which are painful and difficult to treat. More importantly, varicose veins can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots. DVT can be life threatening if the clot breaks free of its place in the leg and travels to the heart, lungs or brain.
Fortunately, modern vein treatments are quick, safe, and minimally invasive. They can be performed on an outpatient basis with no need to go to a hospital or experience lengthy recovery times. So, if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of varicose veins, or if you’d like to better understand your risk profile for varicose veins, call us on 1300 981 402 to set up an appointment for a venous health evaluation.