The primary symptom of varicose veins is easy to identify – highly visible, swollen veins which can cause skin discoloration. But what causes varicose veins to form? Why do some people get them, and others don’t? There are a range of contributing reasons why varicose veins will develop, let’s look at the most common.

How do varicose veins develop?

Veins are responsible for carrying oxygen-rich blood from around the body, back up to the heart. However when vein valves, or vein walls, become damaged they can lead to Chronic Venous Insufficiency. As well as swelling and skin discoloration, one of the symptoms of CVI is varicose veins. When blood is not able to flow back up to the heart, it begins to reflux or pool, forming twisted, enlarged vessels you know as varicose veins.

Varicose veins: who is most vulnerable?

The most common reason why varicose veins form, is unfortunately out of your control. Both maternal and paternal genetics play a significant factor in your vulnerability to vein disease. Your unique genetic profile determines the strength of your vein walls, valves and muscle density – all of which provide support to your circulatory system.

Another significant contributor which is not within your control, is age. As each year passes, the aging process results in wear and tear on blood vessels and vein valves that regulate healthy blood flow. When this happens, the faulty valves start allowing small amounts of blood to flow back and reflux in your veins instead of being returned to the heart.

Hormones and varicose veins

The reason varicose veins often develop during pregnancy is due to three physiological changes. An increase in blood volume to help your baby grow. Your uterus causing pressure on the inferior vena cava. And a surge of pregnancy hormones that make vein walls less rigid and capable of functioning properly. These factors combined can cause the blood in your veins to pool, leading to the formation of varicose veins. Read more: Varicose Veins in Pregnancy.

As with pregnancy, hormonal fluctuations during menopause can impact the healthy function of veins. The rise and fall of estrogen and progesterone levels can create thicker and less flexible vein walls and impair the function of vein valves, preventing them from closing properly. The thickened vein walls can create additional congestion and swelling by constricting your veins.

Lifestyle and work

The primary job-related characteristic that increases varicose veins risk is lack of movement. This includes jobs that require you to stand all day, but it also includes jobs that require you to sit all day. Either standing or sitting for a long time increases your risk for varicose veins. This is because staying in one position for a long time forces your veins to work harder to pump blood to your heart.

If your job does require you to stand or sit for most of the day, there are a few ways to help prevent varicose veins – or find pain relief, if you already have them. Studies show that wearing compression stockings for just one week reduced the severity and pain associated with varicose veins. The compression stocking applies mild pressure to the legs, encouraging healthy blood flow. As well as pain relief, they can also aid in the prevention of varicose veins. Additionally, we recommend a light massage with Arnica cream to soothe any leg pain or inflammation which might occur at the end of the day.

Preventing varicose veins

If you’re at risk of developing varicose veins, it’s important to keep your blood circulation healthy and ward off vein disease.

  • Healthy diet; The best way to bolster your circulation is by eating foods that support your veins. Certain fruits and veggies contain micronutrients that are vital to ensuring good vascular health.
  • Vitamins; Supplement your diet with grape seed extract (Vitis vinifera). Studies confirm that taking 100mg of grape seed extract per day can improve chronic venous insufficient (CVI) symptoms such as pain, swelling, itchiness and heaviness in just ten days.
  • Mental health; Although stress doesn’t cause CVI or varicose veins, chronic stress can exacerbate your symptoms. Managing stress levels, therefore, is very important when it comes to maintaining the health of your veins in the long-term.
  • Stay active; Daily moderate exercise – yoga, swimming, hiking, walking your dog or riding a bike can all have a positive effect on your circulatory system. Particularly, if your profession requires you to sit or stand all day, make time throughout your day to stretch or walk around to help with circulation.

Read more: 5 ways to promote healthy veins and blood circulation

Is it risky to leave varicose veins untreated?

Living with the symptoms of varicose veins can be uncomfortable but if left untreated, varicose veins can also lead to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and blood clots, as well as varicose eczema. However, every case is different, so it is advised that you discuss your circumstances with a doctor.

Seek expert advice

The doctors at The Vein Institute specialise in varicose vein treatment. We offer patients a comprehensive treatment program to treat varicose veins, with non-surgical laser treatment techniques. The benefits of laser treatment to patients are;

  • Walk-in walk-out treatment
  • 98% success rate
  • Extremely effective
  • Can be performed at a clinic (no hospitalisation)
  • No general anaesthetic
  • Medicare rebates apply
  • No downtime or time away from work

To book a consultation and discuss our treatment program, call 1800 338 511. Or, complete the form below to receive a call back from one of The Vein Institute team.

The Vein Institute

Dr Zil Yassine (BA MBBS Uni. NSW, MA Harvard, Fellow (College of Phlebology UK) specialises in the non surgical treatment of varicose veins. He completed training as a Specialist General Practitioner (FRACGP 2014) in Sydney before successfully completing the American Board of Venous and Lymphatic Medicine examinations that same year. He has been a doctor for over 10 years and has performed thousands of venous interventions and gives talks on vein treatments at vascular surgeon conferences. Dr Yassine also holds the following degrees: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Surgery (UNSW), Masters of Arts (Harvard University), Diploma of Diagnostic Ultrasound in Phlebology (ACP).