What Causes Varicose Veins?
The cause of varicose veins is not known, but heredity and hormones play a role. Our veins have valves that prevent blood from flowing backwards and force the blood back to the heart for oxygenation. The veins are assisted by the calf muscles that when squeezed, force the blood toward the heart.
But, increased pressure in the leg veins causes the veins to swell and can damage the valves. When these veins are damaged or weakened, the blood in the legs flow backward into the veins and pools there, causing a varicose vein.
- As we age, the veins lose elasticity and the valves can stop working.
- Being overweight can worsen the problem by creating more pressure on the veins.
- Hormones. These occur during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Birth control pills and medications containing estrogen and progesterone can also contribute to the forming of varicose.
- During pregnancy there is a large increase in the blood supply, which puts extra pressure on the veins, causing them to enlarge.
- Heredity can cause a person to have weak veins and valves. That is why more than 50% of patients with varicose veins have a family member with vein problems.
- Inactivity. Sitting or standing for a long time forces your veins to work harder to pump blood to your heart.
Not all of these factors can be modified or changed. However, some lifestyle changes may help prevent or delay new varicose veins.
Lifestyle Changes to Improve Circulation and Prevent New Varicose Veins
- Control your weight to avoid increased pressure in your legs, and improve blood flow.
- Regular exercise helps control your weight and improves leg strength, circulation and vein strength. Specifically focus on exercises that work the legs.
- Toned muscles help move the blood through your veins. Wearing low heeled shoes can help tone the muscles. Avoid high-heels.
- Avoid crossing your legs when sitting. This will improve blood flow.
- When resting, sitting or sleeping elevate your legs above your heart.
- Don’t cross your legs for long times when sitting. It’s possible to injure your legs that way, and even a minor injury can increase the risk of varicose veins.
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods. If you need to sit, get up and walk every 30 minutes. If you need to stand, shift your weight from one leg to the other often.
- Avoid wearing clothes that are tight around the waist, groin or upper legs as they will increase pressure in the leg veins.
- To avoid developing new varicose veins, wear compression stockings most of the day. They put gentle pressure on the legs, decrease swelling and keep the blood from pooling.
These self-help tips can help improve circulation, and prevent or delay formation of new varicose veins. They may help to keep existing varicose veins from getting worse.
How to Prevent Them
Start by working out. “Exercise helps control weight and keep leg muscles fit,” says Weiss. Try low-impact activities, like swimming and biking, which don’t put undue strain on the legs. Beyond exercise, opt for flats over heels, because they allow the calf muscles to contract fully. At the end of the day, sit with your legs propped higher than your heart for 10 to 15 minutes to help drain any pooled blood. And if visible veins run in your family, and especially if your legs ache, consider wearing support hose as often as possible. (Today they look more like black tights than like Grandma’s stockings.) “Support hose can help prevent blood from pooling,” says Weiss.
If you or a loved one is suffering with varicose veins, call (559) 625-4118 to schedule a consultation with the vein experts at South Valley Vascular Associates. We have three convenient locations in Visalia, Porterville or Hanford, California where you can learn about your treatment options. There is no reason to delay your varicose vein treatment!