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What Causes Varicose Veins?

what causes varicose veinsVaricose veins refer to swollen, enlarged, and tortuous veins that are commonly linked to faulty valves within the venous system. They are normally dark purple or blue in color due to stagnated or slow flowing blood. People who suffer commonly experience heavy limbs and cramping pain. In extreme cases, the varicose veins rupture causing varicose ulcers on the skin. What causes varicose veins though?

Well, in healthy and functional venous systems, the valves usually stop blood from flowing back or remaining stagnant because they act as gates which constantly open and close to allow blood to flow only in one direction but when the valves get damaged or become weak, they may allow blood to accumulate in the veins or flow back thereby making them varicose.

This condition is common the world over because the causative and risk factors are not confined to a specific geographical region. In the United States for instance, the National Institutes of Health approximates 17 percent of men and 33 percent of women to be affected while in the United Kingdom, about 30 percent of all adults have varicose veins.



Inasmuch as varicose veins occur anywhere in the body, they are common in feet and legs, particularly in the calves. According to experts, walking and standing are the two main activities that exert pressure on the veins located on the lower limbs.

What Causes Varicose Veins

There are various causes of varicose veins but the main ones are weak valves and vein walls.

Located inside your veins are small one-way valves which open and close constantly to let blood flow through and prevent it from flowing backwards. Because of wear and tear and the constant stretching, the vein walls lose their elasticity hence weakening the valves. Improper functioning valves can cause blood leakage and backward flows. When this happens, the blood collects in your veins thus enlarging and swelling them. this is what causes varicose veins.

varicose veins explained

Apart from the weakened valves and vein walls, there are other risk factors that contribute to exactly what causes varicose veins. These include:


Chances of women developing varicose veins are higher compared to men. According to research, this phenomenon may be caused by the fact that female hormones relax the walls of veins thereby causing the valves to be more vulnerable to leakages and backflows.


If a close member of your family has varicose, chances are that you may also develop the condition. This is a clear indication that varicose veins is genetically linked and as such can be passed down the family tree just like genetic behaviors and traits.


As the body systems age, the veins gradually lose their elasticity causing the valves to function sub-optimally or stop working altogether. While aging cannot be stopped, there are things you can do to slow down the process. Among these things include exercises and nutrition.

Being Overweight

Lifestyle conditions especially obesity causes extra pressure on your venous system. This means the veins must work harder so as to push blood back to the heart. This increased pressure also affects the valves causing them to become loose and vulnerable to leakages. The overweight problem is more pronounced in women than men as far as development of varicose veins is concerned.


The nature of your job can also put a significant strain on your vein system. For instance, jobs where you stand for longer periods may affect your blood flow because your weight is exerted on the veins located on your lower limbs.


Most women develop varicose veins during pregnancy because of three main reasons. The first reason is because of the increased weight due to the developing baby. This puts more pressure to the veins located at the legs. Secondly, it’s because of the influx of blood required to support the baby during this period. Again, this exerts pressure on the valves hence weakening them. The third reason is because of the increased hormonal levels that cause the muscular walls of the veins to relax therefore increasing the risk of varicose veins.

Previous Abnormalities in Blood Vessels

If your blood vessels have a preexisting condition which causes them to constrict, the risk of developing varicose veins is higher. During treatment, the underlying condition has to be addressed first before treating the varicose veins.

Blood Clotting

Also known as thrombosis, the formation of a blood clot inside the veins can obstruct the flow of blood. This causes the veins to enlarge and swell hence weakening the walls and valves. Since thrombosis is a problem associated with coagulation factors and genetic deficiencies, alternative medical address may be required if the problem is to be solved comprehensively.

Inasmuch as varicose veins cause pain and other undesirable effects, the manner in which it develops varies from person to person. In some, it may require urgent medical attention while in others it may disappear on its own.

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