Why are Varicose Veins Primarily Found in the Legs?


Varicose veins after prolonged standing.

Valve damage in varicose veins

So why are Varicose Veins found in the legs?

There are a few reasons that varicose veins are found in the legs.

Firstly, it is all about gravity.  According to MyDr. – “Veins have the job of taking blood back to the heart. Blood moves from the superficial veins (found just under the skin) through perforator veins to the deep veins in the leg muscles. Because the leg veins are working against gravity, they have one-way valves inside them to prevent the backflow of blood. Your leg muscles also help blood to flow the right way – when they are used, as in walking, they act as a pump, sending the blood in the veins up to the heart. If the walls of leg veins lose their elasticity and weaken, the valves can stop functioning properly. This means that blood can flow backwards and pool in the veins, causing them to swell and become varicose. Varicose veins usually affect the superficial leg veins (the veins just under the skin).”

Anatomical and real illustration of a legs having a varicose vein and that indicates as a header image for the blog by The Vein Institute about "varicose veins in the legs".

Secondly, when you sit or stand for long periods of time, your muscles in the legs are not working. This is because staying in one position for a long time forces your veins to work harder to pump blood to your heart. Your legs are the part of the body most affected by being sedentary. The science proving that prolonged periods of standing or sitting increase varicose vein risk is pretty conclusive. A 2005 Danish study of nearly 10,000 workers found that “prolonged standing at work constitutes an excess risk of hospital treatment due to varicose vein, and accounts for more than one fifth of all cases of working age.”  A 2012 study in the journal Ergonomics concluded that “…the odds ratio of varicose veins was significantly high for prolonged standing for male and female workers.”

Lastly, some general science. Most other veins (eg. veins found in the arms) are closer to your heart than your legs are. The further away the veins, the longer and harder it takes for the blood to pump back to the heart.

TIP: 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. Rarely, excessive heat can rupture the veins and cause heavy bleeding inside the leg.

Dr. Zil Yassine examining a patient having a varicose veins and that indicates as a header image about varicose veins in the legs by The Vein Institute.


You may need treatment if you suffer from varicose veins. Our doctors are specialists who have undergone training in varicose vein laser treatment. If you would like to speak to someone please contact us on 1300 535 017 or make an appointment.

Reference: https://www.mydr.com.au/womens-health/varicose-veins

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