What Are the Causes of Varicose Veins?
Veins are more superficial than arteries and are noticeable through our skin. Because veins contain deoxygenated blood, they look purple, blue, or green. Varicose vein is a disease of veins where they get dilated and enlarged, enough to be noticed from over the skin. They appear twisted, bulge like cords on the skin, and are blue or purple in color.
There is two main system of veins in legs, the superficial system and the deep system. The blood from superficial veins drains into the deep veins and then goes to the heart. There are valves between superficial and deep veins that are one-way and these valves help blood flow toward the heart instead of superficial veins. Incompetency of these valves can cause problems. Here are a few causes of varicose veins.
Faulty Leg Valves
Once superficial veins drain into deep veins, the one-way valves between superficial and deep veins are responsible to keep blood flow toward the heart. However, if the valves are faulty and incompetent, they fail to keep the blood flowing toward the heart and superficial veins fill with blood due to backflow (“due to flow back” needs to be changed, but I do not know how to word this better). This causes varicose veins. There can be various causes of faulty valves. Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT)
Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is both a cause and a complication of varicose veins. Deep venous thrombosis is a condition where blood clots form in the deep veins of leg/legs. These clots increase the blood pressure in the leg due to hindering effect on blood flow. This increased pressure ultimately results in incompetent or faulty leg valves and then varicose veins develop.
With increasing age, veins start losing their elasticity. This leads to flabby and stretched veins with incompetent valves. Due to this, blood starts flowing toward superficial veins and pools there. This is how varicose veins can develop in old age.
Varicose veins frequently develop in pregnancy and resolve after a few months of delivery. There are two major causes of varicose veins in pregnancy, including the hormonal changes and the enlarged uterus. Hormones of pregnancy increase the blood volume in a body to meet the demands of growing baby. This increased blood volume may cause pooling in legs, leading to varicosities.
An enlarged uterus also puts pressure on veins in the pelvic area. This pressure impedes the blood from flowing toward the heart, leading to pooling in the legs and hence varicose veins. However, pregnancy-related varicose veins usually do not need any treatment and resolve after delivery.
In overweight individuals, there is an increased chance of varicose veins. The weight puts pressure on veins leading to decreased flow toward the heart. Because of increased pressure in the venous system of legs, blood pools in the superficial veins and varicose veins develop.
Standing for Long
Standing or sitting with your legs hanging down for a long time can lead to varicose veins as well. Your legs contain muscles that help pump the blood toward the heart when walking. When you do not walk for a long time, the blood pools in the legs and causes varicose veins.
Sometimes, varicose veins affect many members of the same family. If there are cases of varicose veins in your family, you are at a higher risk for varicose veins to develop.
Muzzamal Habib, MD
Vascular Medicine & Vein Specialist
Dr. Habib has been practicing vein care and vascular More about this author »