Varicose veins can be a cosmetic problem or cause aching pain and discomfort in the area affected. They happen most commonly in the legs but can occur in area that undergoes increasing Varicose Veins, such as the feet, testicles, anus and vaginal area. One variation of varicose veins are spider veins.
In order to better understand what varicose veins are, it is important to have a general understanding of how of the venous and arterial blood system works. Our bodies are fed oxygen by the arteries. Oxygen enters the lungs and is transferred into arterial blood supply. The heart then pumps this blood around to the rest of the body. At some point the blood loses all of the oxygen available to it and returns through the venous system back to the heart.
The arterial blood supply is pushed around the body by the function and power of the heart. However, the venous blood must move back up through the body without the benefit of the heart muscle. When we are in an upright position the blood works against gravity to return to the heart. Leg muscles will squeeze the deep veins of the legs and feet and one-way valves keep the blood from flowing back down in the wrong direction. So, when the leg muscles contract, the valves inside the veins open. When the legs relax the valves close, which prevents the blood going in reverse. This process is called the venous pump.
When we walk the leg muscles squeeze the blood through the venous system which works very well. However, when we sit or stand for long periods of time the blood can pool and increase the amount of pressure on the valves in the veins. There are actually three different kinds of veins in the legs. The first are superficial and lie closest to the top of the skin. There are deep set veins which lie within the groups of muscles and there are perforating veins, which connect the superficial veins to the deep veins. The deepest vein leads to the vena cava, which is the body’s largest vein and runs directly back to the heart.
The deep veins in the perforating veins are usually able to withstand very short periods of increased pressure. However, if you are susceptible, repeated standing or sitting can stretch the walls of the veins and damage the valves. Varicose veins may results. Spider veins are a milder case of varicose veins which are not a serious medical problem but can be a cosmetic concern.
Varicose veins become swollen and you can see them through the skin. They may look blue, bulging and are twisted. If they are left untreated they become worse over time and can cause feelings of fatigue as well as some skin changes in the area in which they occur. This is because the venous system which normally drains the area of waste and toxins is no longer functional. As many as 40 million Americans, the majority of them women, have varicose veins.
If you have varicose veins your legs may feel heavy or tired during the day. You’ll notice that when you stand on your legs for too long your symptoms will increase. Some people who have varicose veins will also have cramping at night. If you have severe varicose veins there is also a slightly increased chance of developing a deep vein thrombosis. This is a condition that requires immediate medical attention. (1)
Researchers have identified several factors that increase the risk of developing varicose veins which include a family history, obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, standing or sitting for long periods of time each day or having a deep vein thrombosis. Interestingly, women are more likely to develop varicose veins than men are and they often appear between the ages of 30 and 70.
One of the side effects of pregnancy appears to be the development of varicose veins because of the increased pressure placed on the venous system secondary to the pregnancy. However, varicose veins that appear with in that time period often return to normal status within the first year after childbirth.
There are some treatments to help individuals with the removal of varicose veins in order to improve the venous return from those areas of the body. Other complications which may occur are blood clots or skin ulcers. Many of the treatment protocols are easy and do not require a long recovery time.
But because prevention and is much easier than a cure you should investigate preventative measures such as regular exercise, keeping fit, maintaining a normal body weight and not sitting or standing for too long without moving around.
(1) Vein Clinics of America: Varicose Veins May put Some at Risk for Dangerous Blood Clots