Varicose veins are twisted and enlarged veins that develop just underneath the skin. Although they can appear anywhere, they are most common in the legs and ankles. Symptoms associated with these veins can include swelling of the ankles and feet, itchiness over the vein, burning, itchiness, heaviness or pain in the leg. These symptoms are often made worse by sitting or standing for a long time. More serious symptoms associated with varicose veins include open sores, bleeding, swollen legs and various skin abnormalities like dry and thin skin, color changes, scaling and inflammation.
Varicose veins are caused by weakened valves. Veins transport blood from the body to the heart to pick up oxygen. They have valves that keep the blood going in the right direction. When those valves stop working properly, some of the blood either flows backward or collects in the vein.
Gravity is the reason these veins are most common in the legs. The veins there have to work against gravity to push the blood up towards the heart. When the valves fail to keep the blood moving, it accumulates in the veins and causes pressure to build up. The veins consequently become distended and weak.
Researchers have identified several factors that increase the likelihood of developing varicose veins. The following are some of the most common:
• Genetics – A tendency towards developing varicose veins runs in families. Scientists have learned that people whose parents had these veins are more likely to develop them. Some researchers believe that the risk may increase by 90 percent if both parents had varicose veins.
• Occupation – People who have to stand or sit for long periods while working are more susceptible to varicose veins. Prolonged sitting or standing causes the blood to pool within the veins. The increased pressure can damage the valves and cause varicose veins. High-risk occupations include nurses, hairdressers and teachers.
• Pregnancy – Pregnancy is accompanied by a variety of physical changes that put added pressure on the veins. As the baby grows, it causes an increase in the mother’s blood volume. Even worse, the baby’s position within the uterus may cause the blood vessels to become constricted and, thus, less able to deal with the increased amount of blood. The hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy may also cause these veins.
• Exercise – Being completely sedentary unsurprisingly increases the risk of varicose veins – but so can some types of exercise. Jogging or running on a hard surface like pavement does not do the leg veins any favors. Exercises that require standing for a long time also increase the chances of developing these veins.
• Age – As a person gets older, the valves in their veins can become weaker. The veins themselves can lose elasticity and, thus, become distended.
• Obesity – Extra weight increases the pressure on the veins.
Make an appointment at the South Texas Vein Institute in Edinburg to get all the facts about these veins and what treatment options are available. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our venous expert!