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4 Types of People at Risk of Developing Varicose Veins

varicose veins

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What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that can be seen just under the surface of the skin. They look lumpy and dark blue or purple. These veins usually occur in the legs, particularly the calf, and sometimes in the thighs, but they can also develop in other parts of the body.

Spider veins are similar to varicose veins but smaller. They are also closer to the surface of the skin than varicose veins.

And they occur in over 40 million Americans. So if you’re not familiar with varicose veins, this is a great opportunity to learn.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins can be caused by weak or damaged valves in the veins. The heart pumps blood filled with oxygen and nutrients to the whole body through the arteries, and veins then carry the blood from the body back to the heart. Veins have valves that act as one-way flaps to prevent blood from flowing backward as it moves up your legs, against the flow of gravity. If the valves become weak and the blood doesn’t flow properly through the veins in the legs, blood can pool in the veins and varicose veins can form.

Who is at Risk for Developing Varicose Veins?

Many factors can raise your risk of developing varicose veins. Here are the people that are most likely to suffer from varicose vein problems.

1) Pregnant Women

Many women first develop varicose veins or find that they get worse during pregnancy. As a woman’s uterus grows, it puts pressure on the large vein on the right side of the body (the inferior vena cava), which in turn increases pressure in the leg veins.

Varicose veins are more common in women than in men, and if developed, they tend to get worse with each successive pregnancy and with age. There is good news: varicose veins don’t put the mother or baby at any risk and tend to improve after giving birth, especially if they were not present before pregnancy.

To prevent or minimize varicose veins consider the following:

    • Exercise daily; it is important to walk around to help blood circulation.
    • Strive to keep within the recommended weight range for the stage of pregnancy.
    • Elevate feet and legs whenever possible.

2) People That Are Overweight

Being overweight can cause a whole slew of health issues.

Diabetes usually takes the spotlight here, but other problems can result from having all that extra weight — including the appearance of varicose veins.

But here’s the tricky part: most people who suffer from these types of veins can discover they have these nasty veins because they can see the veins bulging, and immediately know that something is wrong.

People who are overweight, however, do not realize they have varicose veins, as the swollen veins are not visible on the surface of the skin, due to excess fat. Being overweight or obese can put extra pressure on the veins. Having low muscle mass and high body fat decreases the support for the veins, which can lead to varicose veins.

Over time, the pressure in the leaking veins may cause damage to the skin on the lower leg; this is usually when patients will go and see a specialist. This is a major issue in the overweight population and they are at greater risk of leg ulceration.

3) People Often On Their Feet on Sitting For Extended Periods

Keeping the body in an upright position requires considerable muscular effort; it is particularly unhealthy to stand motionless. It effectively reduces the blood supply to the muscles. Insufficient blood flow accelerates the onset of fatigue and causes pain in the muscles of the legs.

Gravity pulls blood down into your legs and feet when you’re standing up or sitting down. So by sitting or standing for long periods, the veins have to work extra hard to get that blood back up to the heart, and some of those veins can wear out over time. Prolonged and frequent standing or sitting, without some relief by walking, causes blood to pool in the legs and feet. When standing or sitting occurs continually over prolonged periods, it can result in inflammation of the veins. This inflammation may progress over time to chronic and painful varicose veins.

4) Adults Over 50

Though varicose veins don’t only occur in older people, they are far more prevalent for those over the age of 50. This is because the tendency to develop varicose veins often increases with age. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, half of all Americans over the age of 50 suffer from varicose veins.

Aging causes wear and tear on the valves in the veins that help regulate blood flow. Eventually, that wear causes the valves to allow some blood to flow back into the veins where it collects instead of flowing back up to the heart.

5) People Who Have Varicose Veins in Their Genes

Does your mother have varicose veins? How about your grandmother? Well, you may get them too.

Your genes play a large role in whether you will develop these kinds of veins.

Though not always the case, it is likely that if varicose veins run in your family, you are highly likely to develop them as well.

Though you cannot change your genetic makeup, you can strive to make healthy habits to put yourself at a lower risk of developing these types of veins.

Some of these healthy habits include:

    • Low-impact exercises such as swimming and biking
    • Women should wear flats rather than heels
    • Prop legs above the heart for 10-15 minutes a day
    • Wear support hose to prevent blood from pooling
    • Avoid standing for long periods
    • If you are overweight, make it a point to lose weight

If you find yourself suffering from the onset of varicose veins, don’t worry — there are still ways you can work to get rid of them.

No one likes to deal with the appearance or the pain of varicose veins.

“How can I do that?” you ask?

With the help of Vein Clinics of America. As the largest, oldest, and most experienced vein clinic in the United States, we’d say your chances of varicose vein improvement are fabulous.

So if you’re worried about your varicose veins, search over 60 VCA vein treatment clinics today to find a clinic near you.

Concerned about your vein health?

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Satish Vayuvegula
Dr. Satish Vayuvegula is the National Medical Director at Vein Clinics of America. Certified by the American Board of Venous & Lymphatic Medicine, Dr. Satish Vayuvegula is recognized as a physician who has met rigorous standards of knowledge and extensive training in phlebology, the diagnosis and treatment of varicose vein disease and related disorders. Dr. Satish also shares his passion and expertise by serving as a board member of the American Vein and Lymphatic Society, the predominant national organization for venous and lymphatic disease.

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