What Causes Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins effect up to 30% of the Australian population. Laser medical treatment offers an alternative to traditional surgery for those patients that require treatment.

What exactly are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are leg veins that do not pump blood effectively up the legs to the heart. Veins contain small valves that propel blood up the body towards the heart, sometimes these valves don’t function properly, resulting in the blood that is meant to be pushed towards the heart moving or “leaking” downwards due to gravity. The extra pressure inside the veins from the blood trying to move in two directions causes them to bulge and take on the bluish-purple colour of deoxygenated blood.

What causes them?

Varicose veins have many possible causes, including:

  • Genetics
  • Aging
  • Pregnancy
  • Gender
  • Professions that require extended periods of sitting or standing
  • Trauma to the leg area
  • Oral contraceptive pill use
  • Obesity

Both men and women experience varicose veins; however, women seem to be at greater risk, this could be due to hormones, pregnancy and/or genetics.

Other patients include those whose occupations involve standing on their feet all day e.g. tradesmen, truck drivers, hairdressers, retail staff and factory workers. These people will often have a higher risk of developing varicose veins.

What makes them worse?

Left untreated, varicose veins can carry medical risks, if the “leak” in these veins is severe, over time it can cause inflammation to the surrounding skin.

If you are experiencing vein pain, avoid exposure to excessive heat e.g. hot tubs, spas, or saunas. Heat increases inflammation and swelling of the vein. Varicose veins are large and can become fragile. Excessive heat can rupture the veins and cause heavy bleeding inside the leg.

What makes them better?

Medical intervention is the best way to reduce the symptoms and risks associated with varicose veins. Every case is different, so the treatment each patient receives may be different, they are a medical concern therefore it is important to discuss your symptoms with a doctor.

The two most common treatment methods are, Endovenous ablation therapy (Laser) and Ultrasound guided sclerotherapy.

Can I prevent varicose veins?

To prevent or alleviate the symptoms of varicose veins, it is recommended that you wear compression stockings during prolonged periods of sitting or standing and maintain a healthy lifestyle which includes a balanced diet and regular exercise.

What signs and symptoms may be a result/sign of varicose veins?

  • No symptoms
  • Large, bulging veins that you can see under the surface of the skin.
  • An achy or heavy feeling in your legs.
  • Burning, aching, throbbing, or muscle cramping,
  • Worsened pain after sitting or standing for a long time
  • Itching around one or more of your veins.
  • Chronic swelling in your lower legs.
  • Over a period of years, they can cause a brown pigmentation, hardening of your skin, and even a skin ulcer.

For most patients who experience painful varicose veins, the symptoms are aggravated by inaction and resolve when they get up and walk. In most cases, large varicose veins produce more symptoms than small ones.

What are the different types of veins I can see in my leg?

  • Bulging veins – Veins that bulge and protrude above the skin are often a concern for patients who come to see us at The Vein Institute. In some cases, the veins are clearly varicose, because not only are they bulging above the surface of the skin, they are discoloured and have taken on the bluish-purple colour of deoxygenated blood.
  • Reticular veins – Smaller than varicose veins these do not protrude above the skin the way that varicose veins do. Blue or purple in colour (because of the deoxygenated blood that fills them), they are most commonly found on the inner thigh, the backs of knees, or on the ankles.
  • Spider Veins – These are small clusters of fine, red veins. They are typically considered to be a cosmetic concern.

Are there any concerns if I don’t my veins them treated?

The tiny valves in your veins that were supposed to keep blood flowing “upwards” towards the heart are damaged by a condition called chronic venous insufficiency or CVI. As a result, over time your circulation may become worse and worse, causing changes in the colour and texture of your legs in addition to swelling. In serious cases, CVI can then result in venous ulcerations which can be extremely painful and difficult to heal.

Additionally, varicose veins can increase your risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) by 5 times more than the average population. Frequent flyers with large varicose veins should see a doctor for an assessment due to an increased risk of DVT.



Looking for more information on varicose veins and their treatment?

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