Truth about Varicose Veins

1. Causes of Varicose Veins

There are about 25% of adults have varicose veins, which are caused by increased blood pressure in the veins. The blood moves towards the heart by one-way valves in the veins. When the valves become weakened or damaged, blood can collect in the veins, a critical factor for varicose vein. Varicose veins happen in the veins near the surface of the skin.

Leg without varicose vein

In most cases, varicose veins appear on the lower legs with twisted, swollen, and enlarged veins, and with blue or dark purple.

There is no apparent reason for the causes of varicose veins. Here are some potential causes:

  • Family history of varicose veins

Varicose veins often run in families. Genes are associated with varicose veins. Here is one example. Studies have supported the theory that the primary initiation of varicose vein formation occurs in smooth muscle cells. Downregulation of desmuslin gene expression has been noted in the smooth muscle cells of incompetent varicose veins. The desmuslin gene is located at chromosome 15q26.3 and encodes the protein desmuslin, which belongs to intermediate filament protein family and is located in the smooth muscle cell cytoplasm. Intermediate filament protein complexes provide strength and integrity to the smooth muscle cell wall. Breakdown of smooth muscle cell fibers has been described in incompetent vein walls and it has been stipulated that this separation of muscle fibers may cause loss of vascular tone leading to venous dilatation.

  • Age over 50

The risk of varicose veins increases with age. Aging causes wear and tear on the valves in your veins that help regulate blood flow. Eventually, that wear causes the valves to allow some blood to flow back into your veins where it collects instead of flowing up to your heart.

  • Standing for long periods of time

Standing causes veins to overwork and blood pool in the leg veins, which increase pressure in those veins, cause the valves to become weak and inefficient, and, ultimately, lead to the formation of varicose veins.

  • Obesity

Excess body fate put extra pressure on the leg veins and their valves, which makes it harder to pump blood against gravity back to the heart and increases the chance of varicose vein formation.

  • Chronic constipation

Constipation happens when the stool is hard and requires physical effort before it is passed. Under such demands, the abdominal muscles must contract, a deep breath must be held as the diaphragm is forced downward. This creates strong internal abdominal pressures to help force the contents out of the colon. This additional force from straining results in the increased pressure on veins and their valves.

  • Being female, pregnancy, taking oral contraceptive pills, menopause, or hormone replacement

Women are more likely to develop the condition. Hormonal changes before your period or during pregnancy or menopause might be a factor because female hormones tend to relax vein walls.

Women are much more likely to develop varicose veins during their pregnancy than at any other time in their lives. Pregnant women have much more blood in their body, which supports the growing fetus, but places extra pressure on the circulatory system.

Additionally, changes in hormone levels can lead to a relaxation of the blood vessel walls. Both these factors raise the risk of having varicose veins.

As the uterus (womb) grows, there is more pressure on the veins in the mother’s pelvic area. In the majority of cases, the varicose veins go away after the pregnancy is over; this is not always the case, and sometimes, even if the varicose veins improve, there may be some left visible.

  • Being inactive

To push blood back to your heart, your veins rely mainly on surrounding muscles. An inactive lifestyle results in the muscle weakness, causing blood retain in the veins.

  • Leg injury

leg injury may damage the valves in a vein which can result in a varicosity.

  • Smoking

Smoking generates thousands of chemicals, many of which cause blood vessel damage, make your blood circulation in your legs sluggish, and contribute to the formation of varicose veins.

2. Symptoms and Signs of Varicose Veins

For many people, varicose veins are simply a cosmetic concern. For other people, varicose veins can cause aching pain and discomfort. Sometimes varicose veins lead to more-serious problems.

Here are some signs and symptoms of varicose veins:

  • Large, bluish or purple-appearing bulging veins that you can see under the surface of your skin
  • Swelling in your ankles and feet
  • Painful or achy legs that feel “heavy”
  • Muscle cramping in your legs—particularly at night
  • Itchy legs, especially on your lower leg and ankles
  • Burning or throbbing sensations in your legs
  • Discolored patches of skin around the area where you have varicose veins

Based on the disease conditions, there are 6 stages:

  1. Stage one – spider vein: smaller, dilated veins and capillaries that appear just underneath the surface of the skin.
  2. Stage two – reticular veins: red or blue spiderwebs on the surface of the skin.
  3. Stage three – varicose vein: larger and more dilated veins that appear underneath the surface of the skin as twisted, enlarged veins.
  4. Stage four – Swelling of the legs.
  5. Stage five – skin discoloration.
  6. Stage six – Open wounds and ulcers.

It is important to discvoer your varicose veins as early as possible, which allow you to take measure to reverse the developent of varicose veins.

3. Simple Way to Prevent Varicose Veins

One of the best practices to help with varicose veins you can do is to elevate your legs. Give your varicose veins a break by taking the pressure of gravity off of them.

Put your feet up for a while on an elevated lounge chair or a couch while reading a good book or doing whatever else relaxes you.

4. Collagen for Varicose Veins

Collagen provides strength and elasticity to our whole body. It plays a major role in keeping our skin looking wrinkle free. Collagen is also a critical component in the walls of our veins.

Getting a good amount of collagen in your diet, especially as you age it aids in keeping your veins strong so they can pump blood efficiently. If veins are weak, there is a potential that blood will pool in the vein causing varicose veins.

Collagen is general term for the main structural proteins found in the skin and connective tissues in humans. Collagen is comprised of 19 amino acids (for example, glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, lysine and arginine).

Eating collagen-rich foods or foods that boost collagen production help your vein health. Here are the foods with rich sources of collagen:

  • Bone broth
  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Egg whites
  • Citrus fruits
  • Berries
  • Red and yellow vegetables
  • Leafy greens
  • Cashews
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Beans
  • Avocados

5. The Best Exercise for Varicose Veins

Swimming is the best way to relax and shrink your varicose veins. Swimming is a low-intensity cardiovascular exercise that can be used to combat varicose veins. In addition to working your legs, it puts the legs at heart level and avoids the pooling of blood in the legs that comes with varicose veins. It helps improve circulation, strengthen your legs and veins and stimulate blood flow.

Improve circulation

Swimming improves blood circulation in your legs. As you swim, the pressure from the water pushes the blood back to the heart more efficiently. It also works all your body muscle groups, which in turn improves your overall circulations.

Strengthen your veins and leg muscles

Your blood flows through your veins in response to the contractions of your leg muscles. The stronger your leg muscles are, the better your blood flows. Swimming is a great aerobic exercise that helps build leg muscle and strength.

Reduce pain

Swimming lessens the effect of gravity on your legs, thereby enhancing circulation and making it easier for your veins to heal. It also relieves the pressure on the veins.


Other than relieving the painful symptoms of varicose veins, swimming helps to prevent their development by shrinking the varicose veins that have not appeared on your skin yet. It also contributes to reducing them for those already having this condition.

Tips to benefit from swimming associated activities

  • Stay stationary in the water, tread water, and move your legs in a circular motion.
  • Use a kick board to rest your upper body and use your legs to propel and move across the pool.
  • Sit on the side of the pool and pedal or kick the water to work your legs.

6. Varicose Vein, Deep Vein Thrombosis, and Pulmonary Embolism

Generally speaking, varicose veins are only cosmetic concern. However, based on the recent published studies, varicose veins are at a significantly higher risk of incident deep venous thrombosis (DVT), and may also be more likely to develop pulmonary embolism (PE)

A DVT is a blood clot that forms inside a primary vein called a deep vein. DVT’s usually occur in the legs, but can also form in other parts of the body. The primary concern with DVT is a potentially fatal condition called PE, where a blood clot detaches from the vein wall and travels into the lungs.

Some common signs and symptoms associated with DVT in the legs are:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Redness or discoloration
  • Warm skin

If you experience a sudden onset of these symptoms, it’s important that you call your doctor immediately. These symptoms warrant timely evaluation.

On the other hand, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency facility immediately if you experience any of these symptoms which could be signs of a blood clot traveling from the legs to the heart and lungs, or PE:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Pain from breathing
  • Severe lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Pain in shoulder, back or jaw

Common causes of DVT:

  • Immobility: When blood moves very slowly, platelets in the blood are more likely to stick together and form a blood clot. When you sit still for long periods of time, such as when you’re on a long flight or car ride, your muscles relax, causing venous flow to slow down.
  • Injury to a deep vein: This can result from a surgery, a broken bone or other trauma. Even minor injuries such as a sprained ankle can increase your chances of developing DVT.
  • A history of DVT: If you’ve had DVT in the past, your chances of developing a new DVT are much higher. Usually, your body will break down a blood clot and it’ll go away, but sometimes some or all of the clot will remain in your vein and give your blood’s platelets something to stick to, forming a new blood clot.
  • Other causes of DVT include pregnancy, birth control, hormone replacement therapy, smoking, obesity and some genetic blood disorders.

Some simple steps you can take to lower your risk of developing DVT is:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Don’t sit still for long periods of time
  • Stay hydrated
  • When traveling, wear compression stockings
  • Have regular checkups with your doctor

Deep venous thrombosis can be a dangerous and even lethal event but, as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You can rest well because knowing the facts, knowing the risks and knowing the ways to prevent DVT is most of the battle and could very well save your life.

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