Varicose Vein

Varicose veins are part of a spectrum of chronic venous disease that occurs when veins become enlarged, dilated, and overfilled with blood. Varicose veins usually appear swollen and raised and they can present themselves anywhere on the body but they are most common in the lower extremities. A study by Almazan, et al. (2020) noted that one out of five adults aged 60 years and above will develop varicose veins.

Last Updated: February 26, 2024

Varicose veins occur when the built-in one-way valves of veins don’t function properly. These valves prevent blood from flowing backwards and ensure that they return to the heart efficiently. When these valves fail, blood begins to collect in the veins which causes them to enlarge and appear raised on the skin. The legs are the body part usually affected by this disease because gravity makes it harder for  blood here to flow upward.

 

Some possible causes of varicose veins include:

  • Pregnancy (female hormones tend to relax the walls of veins; developing baby requires more blood that fills up veins more)
  • Menopause (hormonal changes)
  • Age (veins start to lose their elasticity as you age)
  • Obesity (extra weight puts extra pressure on veins which requires more effort to return blood back to the heart)
  • Standing for long periods of time (harder for blood to flow upward when standing for long periods)
  • Family history of varicose veins (genetic predisposition)

The primary symptoms of varicose veins are enlarged, bulging, and twisting veins on the patient’s legs. Discoloration can also occur where the veins present with a dark purple or blue color on the skin’s surface.


It is also possible to have pain, swelling, and aching over or around the enlarged veins.

Varicose veins are usually diagnosed through a physical examination but they are rarely serious enough to require treatment. When they present with pain and discomfort, a physician may advise lifestyle changes that prevent further complications instead of trying more aggressive treatments. 


In more serious cases where lifestyle changes do not work, surgery can be done. Vein ligation and stripping is an option that removes the affected veins to lessen the symptoms of this disease.

The best way to prevent varicose veins is to develop a lifestyle that reduces a person’s risk factors for this disease. Avoid standing for long periods of time, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise to improve blood circulation

 

Wearing compression socks or stockings can also help since they increase the pressure around the legs which should allow the blood to flow more easily to the heart. 

 

References:

Almazan, S., Gascon, D., Isip, J., & Landayan, P. (2020). Incidence of varicose veins and associated risk factors among factory workers to develop an ergonomically sound workplace. Advances in Physical, Social & Occupational Ergonomics, pp. 135-141. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-51549-2_18 

Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Varicose veins. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/varicose-veins/symptoms-causes/syc-20350643 

Piazza, G. (2014). Varicose veins. Circulation, 130(7), 582-587. 10.1161/circulationaha.113.008331.

Last Updated: February 26, 2024