Published On: Tue, Apr 10th, 2018

A quick guide to varicose veins

Varicose veins are a complicated condition that affects a broad range of people, most commonly experienced by those who are older, overweight, pregnant or have a family history of the condition.

Ordinarily, the condition is not painful but it has been known to be associated with soreness and discomfort in some cases. This quick guide is meant to help you understand the basics on varicose veins so that you know how to tackle the condition.

photo/ Darko Stojanovic

What are varicose veins?

The condition is normally characterised by enlarged, bulging and unsightly blood vessels that appear ropy under the skin. This is the result of a problem with the blood flow in the legs’ blood vessels which, due to gravity, allows blood to pool up and enlarge the surrounding tissue.

How are they caused?

Varicose veins occur as a result of a condition known as venous deficiency. Each blood vessel has special valves that open and close, allowing or restricting the flow of blood.

When these valves begin to become faulty or damaged, usually due to outside pressures, they begin to improperly regulate the flow of blood. This allows blood to pool up and prevents it from getting oxygen and nutrients within the body.

Because of this, red blood cells can seep into the tissue surrounding the varicose veins, causing discolouration as well as enlarged blood vessels. The worst cases have large, ropy blood vessels with pockets of discoloured skin.

The main influential factors in developing varicose veins are:

  • Pregnancy – Women who become pregnant can often develop varicose veins as part of the many struggles they face during their pregnancy, especially towards the third trimester. In most cases, the problem blood vessels with dissipate following the birth of the child.


  • Standing for long periods – Blood in the legs does not flow properly when the legs remain in the same position for too long. This is especially true in work environments where someone may be stuck in the same seat or standing position for hours at a time.


This is because muscles need to contract in order to pump blood towards the heart. Because of this, workers are recommended to alternate between sitting and standing as often as they can.


  • Strain – Issues like chronic coughing, chronic constipation or enlarged prostate can also lead to the development of varicose veins.


  • Obesity – Overweight or obese people have more pressure on the lower parts of their body due to the increased weight. This strain can restrict proper blood flow, leading to faulty blood vessels.


  • Genetic predisposition – Those with a family history of varicose veins are more likely to develop it because the condition is hereditary. Anyone with a close family member with the condition is far more likely to develop it.


  • Sex – Women, due to their hormones, are more likely to develop this condition than men. This is also due to health developments like pregnancy, menstruation and menopause in which the hormones can weaken the walls of the blood vessels.


  • Age – As people get older, their risk of developing problem blood vessels increases. As people live life, the wear and tear on their blood vessels gets worse, increasing the chances of venous deficiency.


When the blood flow is negatively affected, the blood vessels can become enlarged and will begin to swell. This is the common reasons why the condition is so closely associated with elderly people.

How can they be treated?

Luckily, professional varicose veins treatment has come a long way over the past decade. New, minimally invasive treatments have replaced older methods where the blood vessels were physically removed via surgery.

Now, advanced laser treatments mean that patients have little to no downtime post operation and can see a visible reduction in the problem within a matter of days.

Author: Colin Steinway

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