Even if varicose veins don’t cause pain, they are a problem for tens of millions of Americans. Statistics suggest that more than half of all U.S. citizens over the age of 50 have them. Whether you’re concerned about the appearance of varicose veins or are suffering from the complications that can arise, here’s what you need to know about what causes varicose veins and some risk factors.
Contractions in your leg muscles serve as pumps to send blood back to the heart for recirculation. When veins are functioning as they should, their small valves keep the blood from flowing backwards with gravity.
When these valves don’t work properly, blood is allowed to stay in the veins instead of moving toward the heart. Because the veins in your legs are farthest away from your heart, this is where varicose veins occur most often. The blue appearance of varicose veins is due to the deoxygenated blood that’s collecting instead of being sent back to the heart.
The patients who come to our Jacksonville office for varicose vein treatment may share similar symptoms, but the causes of their vein issues can be very different. Here are some of the factors that may increase your chances of having varicose veins:
Long periods of standing or sitting. If your job requires you to sit at a desk or stand behind a counter all day, it can be difficult to change positions. Try to do so, however, every half hour if you can to increase the blood flow in your legs. Not changing positions for long periods can make your veins work harder to return blood to your heart.
Pregnancy. Your body increases blood volume to support your developing baby. At the same time, however, the flow of blood from your legs decreases. Hormones, which can dilate blood vessels, may also be a contributing factor, as well as the pressure the baby puts on its mother’s veins. The good news is that varicose veins developed during pregnancy will probably improve a few months after delivery without treatment.
Obesity. The effects of excess weight on your body are well known, contributing to problems that range from diabetes and stroke, to heart disease and even certain cancers. It can play a role in the development of varicose veins as well since it greatly increases pressure on your legs.
Family history. Do any of your family members have varicose veins? If so, you have an increased chance to have them, too. Approximately half of those with varicose veins have some family history.
Age. As with your skin, the simple wear and tear of living can decrease veins’ elasticity as you age. The one-way valves in your veins may also weaken, causing the collection of blood in veins.
Lack of exercise. One of the most important benefits of regular exercise is improved circulation. Although some physical activities, such as lifting very heavy weights, isn’t the best choice for those who have or may be prone to varicose veins, other exercises (such as walking) are great for vein health. The goal is to work the calf muscles and feet, which support healthy circulation by pumping blood back to the heart.
The vein specialists at Coastal Vein Vascular Institute in Jacksonville are experts in varicose vein treatment and surgery. If you’re concerned about varicose veins, please contact us for a free assessment.