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Varicose Veins, Are You At Risk?

Updated on June 3, 2017
Spider and Varicose Veins
Spider and Varicose Veins

You have heard of people getting varicose veins, but do you know what they are and what causes them?

I bet you are thinking that only old people or women who are pregnant develop varicose veins.

This is not true. Younger people, especially women, can develop varicose veins at any time in their life. Read on to discover what varicose veins are and if you are at risk for getting them.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

What Are Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are simply large veins that become gnarled or twisted. The veins that are most commonly affected are those in your legs and your feet. But any vein in your body can become varicose. Most of the time varicose veins are simply a cosmetic concern, but occasionally varicose veins can cause aching pain and pressure and can lead to more serious problems.

Varicose veins can also be a sign of other disorders of your circulatory system.

Varicose veins
Varicose veins

What Are The Symptoms Of Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins affect approximately 25 percent of the female population and 15 percent of the male population.

Signs and symptoms of varicose veins include:

  • An achy or heavy feeling in your legs accompanied by burning or throbbing.
  • You may have muscle cramps and swelling in your lower legs.

  • You may also experience intense itching around one or more of your veins.

  • Legs with varicose may often keep up you at night due to the pain or very uncomfortable feeling running up and down your legs.
  • You legs will often hurt when you just get out of bed.

You can tell a varicose vein because it is dark purple in color and is cord-like and twisted and often gnarled.

If you develop skin ulcers around the ankle area, you should seek immediate medical attention because this is a sign of severe vascular disease.

Why Do Some Of Us Develop Varicose Veins?

The function of your veins is to carry blood back to your heart, but to do this the veins must work against gravity.

Muscle contractions in your legs will help to pump the blood back to the heart.

When you grow older, you lose elasticity in your veins which decrease their ability to contract and pump the blood back to the heart.

The result is blood pooling in your veins and causing them to become engorged or swollen. The purplish color is the result of the deoxygenated blood sitting in your veins.

Pregnant women can develop varicose veins also because of the increased volume of blood flow in the body during pregnancy. The flow of blood in the lower half of the body is decreased because the circulatory system is sending more blood to the uterus to support the growing fetus. The side effect of this can be varicose veins in the legs.

Varicose Veins Closure Procedure at BIDMC

What Increases My Risks Of Developing Varicose veins?

As you have read above there are many reasons why we can develop varicose veins. Hover, certain factors can increase your risk, some of these include:

  • Being overweight. When your body carries extra weight it puts more pressure on your vascular system and will often lead to varicose veins.
  • Genetics. Although you can not control your family history you can be aware of it and take measures to help minimize your chances. We will discuss this a little further down the page.
  • Being sedentary. More so than standing on your feet all day, sitting at a desk 8 hours a day puts extra pressure on the veins in your legs as the blood pools from inactivity.
  • Standing for long periods of time. Often cashiers and store clerks will develop varicose veins when they have a job that requires that they stand in on small location during the day.
  • Pregnancy. Pregnancy is a very common time for women to develop varicose veins due to the extra body weight and also from the extra blood needed by the baby. One good note however, is the fact that many women find that their varicose veins go away within a few months of the their baby being born.
  • Frequent Constipation. Being constipated put undue pressure on your vascular system. It can lead to hemorrhoids (these are actually varicose veins) and varicose veins of the legs.

Steps You Can Take To Help Alleviate Some of The Symptoms

Yes, varicose veins can be painful and annoying, but there are a few things that you can do to give some relief.

  • When ever possible try to elevate your legs. This will give the valves in your legs a rest. While you are watching TV, prop your legs up. If you can raise the foot of your bed so it's higher that your pillow end. Even a 2" raise can make a difference.


  • Watch your weight. Excess weight means that the heart and veins have to work harder. If you can keep your weight "normal" for your height and body build, you won't put extra strain on your veins.


  • Massage your legs in the morning and evening to aid in circulation. Spend about 3 minutes 2-3 times a day massaging your legs. This will aid circulation.


  • Eat plenty of fiber rich foods like 100% whole grain breads, fresh fruits and a mixture of raw and cooked veggies. If you are constantly constipated it put additional stress on your veins. Besides hemorrhoids, constipation can cause varicose veins of the legs.


  • Limit your salt intake. When you eat foods that are high in salt content you retain water. This water add extra weight to your body so it's as though you are over weight.
  • If you have a job where you need to stand up or sit down for long periods try to move your legs around to help with circulation. Massage occasionally if possible.


  • Wear compression or support pantyhose. If you are pregnant look for support pantyhose made specifically for pregnant women. These will have a tighter compression on your legs, with gentle support for your belly. There are also compression socks on the market (and can be found in most major department stores) which are the height or tube or knee socks and can be worn by both women and men.


Varicose Veins Treatment Options

Many people with varicose veins want to get rid of them whether for cosmetic reasons or due to pain, swelling and the health factors that they can cause.

So what are the treatment options?


Sclerotherapy is often used on spider or varicose veins which are not severe. It is a simple procedure that often take place in the doctors office. An injection of a solution (usually saline) is given directly into the spider or varicose vein. This then will irritate the vein causing it to swell, side of the vein will stick together and then it will collapse. The vein will then dissolve over time. Expect to see some discoloration of the vein as it is dissolving and will take up to two years to completely disappear.

There is very little pain involved, just a bit of itching or burning and sometimes cramping. it will often take several visits depending on how many veins are involved. Each office visit only requires a 1 hour appointment.

Thermal Or Laser Ablation

Both thermal and laser ablation are very similar to sclerotherapy but in the case of thermal ablation an electrical current is used and in laser ablation a laser light beam is used to cause them to seal and dissolve over time.

Albation may be performed in a doctors office but often is performed in a speciality clinic or in a hospital as an outpatient.

Vein Stripping

Vein stripping is usually performed on veins that are gnarled and twisted. An incision is made in both the groin area and near the calf muscle and the vein is pulled out of either incision.

In the case of severely twisted veins there may be several of these incisions made and the vein is pulled out in sections and then the incisions are either stitched or stapled closed. The stitches or staples are usually removed about 10 days later.

The legs are then bandaged with ace type bandages and are loosened a bit each day for 4-6 days.

Vein stripping is performed in a hospital as an out patient but may require an overnight stay.

Which Treatment Option is Best?

This is an answer that only you and your health care provider can decide upon as each case is unique. Your health provider will access your medical history and the current condition of your varicose veins.

The procedures or products on this site are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

If you have any questions or concerns about your varicose veins or spider veins we suggest that you discuss this with your physician as we are not a substitute for their care.

Books To Read About Varicose Veins


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    • profile image

      sigvaris compression socks 

      8 years ago

      I like the solutions section you have. Often people present problems without solutions, nice to know there are those who are thoughtful that way.

    • kathyfofathy profile image


      9 years ago

      a genetic curse!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      A really comprehensive guide to what's available. Especially liked the YouTube vids!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      A really good lense. I guess you might like this page as well on

    • The Health Lady profile imageAUTHOR

      The Health Lady 

      11 years ago


      Thank you!

      I had varicose veins and in 86 had my leg veins stripped out. Had these newer options been available I could have saved having over 200 1/2" to 3" cuts on my legs and tons of scars and I want others to know all of the better means that are available.

      Plus varicose veins can grow back so even if someone has had their veins taken care of - they may still need this info.

    • healthgoji profile image


      11 years ago

      Most informative hub I've seen on varicose veins - the videos were nice.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      go head nice topis

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I Too have this problem I am in 30's I am making sure I follow the prevention steps. Thanks for this article.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Great article. I especially like your use of videos to expand the range of knowledge.

    • profile image


      11 years ago from Spokane, WA

      Killer hub and I learned a lot. I'll use your tips and maybe I can avoid these things, since I sit in front of a computer many hours a day.

    • profile image

      Power Chords 

      11 years ago

      I'm going to make sure that when I play my guitars, it will be in a 'stand-up' position as often as I can. Movement for them veins is on my agenda... Thanks for the Tips!


      Ron Greene

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Wow, I better get out for my chair now.

      Thanks for the good information

    • Hope Wilbanks profile image

      Hope Wilbanks 

      11 years ago from Louisiana

      Nice, informational Hub!

    • jackmrk profile image


      11 years ago

      Very good I read this ! I am going to make sure I get up from my chair.

      I spend too many hours in front of my computer screen without

      letting my legs do something - which is one of the mentioned risks here...

      Thanks you so much for putting this info online !



    • The Health Lady profile imageAUTHOR

      The Health Lady 

      11 years ago


      Having had horrible varicose veins, I also put on my support hose the same way. Thanks for adding that information here as I had forgotten all about it.

      That tip was probably the best I ever received about varicose veins, I appreaciate the contribution.


    • Caregiver-007 profile image

      Margaret Hampton 

      11 years ago from Florida

      Outstanding article. If people will be standing for a long time and choose support hose, they need to do what we did when I was an international stewardess between college and graduate school. Shower at night. Leave the strong support hose on the bedside table. Alarm goes off beside you, turn it off without getting up. Turn around, put your feet up on the wall so they are elevated without obstruction for 15 minutes. Then with feet in the air still, put on the panty hose. THEN get up. If I did that, I could stand an 11-hour flight (with all those G-forces) from New York to Rio. But without it, a 5-6 hour flight to Europe was an excruciating experience! It works, folks.


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