Varicose Vein Causes

What Causes Varicose Veins?

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February 14, 2021 The Vein Institute

Varicose veins are caused when vein valves aren’t functioning properly. When the vein valves become weak or faulty, they can no longer propel blood back to the heart and instead, blood collects in your vein. It’s currently the most prevalent venous condition in the country, affecting almost one-third of the population. Largely impacting the legs and feet, varicose veins can form in other parts of the body as well. So what causes varicose veins?

Venous insufficiency, which is one of the leading causes of varicose veins, is highly complex and can have multiple risk factors. While the exact reason venous insufficiency develops is often unknown, having more than one risk factor can increase your chances of developing the condition. Below are some of the most common causes of varicose veins:

Varicose vein and genetics

There is strong evidence that weakness in your veins and valves is inherited. Your unique genetic profile determines the strength of your vein walls, valves and muscle density – all of which provide support to your circulatory system. In addition to being born with weak veins, you can inherit too few valves from one or both of your parents.

Unsure if you have varicose veins? Our self-assessment tool can help you identify potentially dangerous vein issues. Try it now.

Varicose veins during pregnancy

If you’re a healthy woman who has never had varicose veins before, you may experience them for the first time them while you’re pregnant. That’s because the extra volume of blood produced during pregnancy is necessary to support your body and that of your growing fetus.

The extra pressure placed on leg veins forces the body to work more vigorously to propel all that blood back up to the heart. To complicate matters, even more, the female hormone progesterone, which is elevated during pregnancy, has a weakening effect on blood vessels.

Read more: Do varicose veins go away after pregnancy?


Similar to 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 and can constrict your veins.

Age is a risk factor

The risk of developing varicose veins increases with age. With each passing year, the aging process results in wear and tear on blood vessels and the vein valves that regulate healthy blood flow. When this happens, the faulty valves start allowing small amounts of blood to flow backwards and pool in your veins instead of being returned to the heart.

Obesity and vein disease

Carrying excess weight causes undue stress on all your organs, particularly your veins. Stress manifests as increased pressure on your circulatory system, weakening the veins and valves in your legs. Varicose veins form when your circulatory system has to work extra hard to pump blood against the extra weight, creating a situation where the blood starts to flow backwards and collect in the veins.

Diagram showing a normal vein vs a varicose vein.

Standing for long periods of time

When you stand all day, your veins have to fight gravity for extended periods of time and this can lead to your veins becoming swollen. If you already suffer from venous insufficiency, then standing for long periods can increase your chances of varicose veins forming.

Read more: Why do varicose veins form?

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Treatment Process.

Step 01

Initial Consultation

One of our doctors will take a medical history and listen to your concerns. After this, a short scan will be performed letting you know whether you have varicose vein disease. A discussion of your treatment options will then happen. In some cases, treatment may not be recommended depending on your medical circumstances.

Step 02

Scans to assess your veins

Varicose veins are easy to diagnose on the surface, however, these leg veins often have a deeper source. To determine their extent, a specialised safe scan (known as ultrasound) is required to assess these leg veins which cannot be seen from the skin. During this time other important veins will be looked at to ensure there is not any sinister vein disease.

Step 03

Treatment outcomes

To improve your venous circulation, treatment may be recommended by one of our doctors using a laser treatment method. Your blood will then be able to find its way back to your heart via a more efficient path. Most patients find relief of leg aches after treatment. Click here to see our patient outcomes.