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Understanding How Varicose Veins Form

Knowing how varicose veins form — and which circumstances can trigger or accelerate their appearance — helps you understand your chances of developing them so you can take steps to prevent them.

Varicose veins are common: More than one in three adults (35%) in the United States currently has them, and many more can expect to get them at some point in life. While anyone can develop these twisted, bulging viscosities, certain factors make them more likely. 

Knowing how varicose veins form — and which circumstances might trigger or accelerate their appearance — can help you understand your chances of developing them. With that awareness, you can manage your risk and prevent unwanted vein problems. 

Read on as board-certified vascular specialist Dr. David Verebelyi and our skilled team at Colorado Skin and Vein discuss the underlying mechanisms and intensifying factors behind varicose veins and explain how you can minimize your risk of developing them.  

Weak valves set the stage for varicose veins 

Your veins have one job: transport deoxygenated blood from your body tissues, organs, and extremities to your heart and lungs. They contain a series of one-way valves to keep your blood flowing efficiently and in the right direction on this continuous journey.

Unfortunately, vein valves aren’t impervious to dysfunction. They can weaken with age, like any other part of your body, and they can weaken under pressure. Leg veins are more likely to become varicose — their valves frequently work against the effects of gravity to keep blood flowing toward your heart.

A condition called venous insufficiency begins when weak or damaged vein valves no longer work as they should. Instead of flowing through them, blood pools behind the dysfunctional valves and exerts pressure on the surrounding vessel wall.  

There are three main risk factors for weak or dysfunctional vein valves, including having a family history of varicose veins, being middle-aged or older, and female gender. 

Circulation issues rapidly accelerate the process

Weak vein valves and venous insufficiency may effectively set the stage for varicose veins, but other factors usually accelerate the process, which include the following four basic categories:

Sluggish blood flow

Venous insufficiency is already a form of poor circulation, but one that can get worse with too much sitting or lack of physical activity. When inactive, your blood flow becomes even more sluggish and readily pools behind weak vein valves. 

Increased pressure

Venous hypertension, or high blood pressure inside your veins, places vein valves under stress and strain. This can happen when pregnancy or carrying excess body fat requires your veins to handle a higher-than-normal blood volume; it can also happen if you’re often on your feet for long stretches.

High-estrogen state

Female gender is a risk factor for varicose veins because estrogen is the primary female sex hormone. While estrogen contributes to vascular health, higher estrogen levels can weaken vein valve function and increase the likelihood of varicose veins. 

This is why the high-estrogen state of pregnancy can accelerate varicose vein formation. 

Injury and obstruction

You’re more likely to develop varicose veins if you’ve ever had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or blood clot, in one of your deep veins. You’re also more likely to get them if you’re a smoker — tobacco damages the lining of your veins and slows circulation. 

Here is how to reduce your varicose vein risk 

While you can’t mitigate unchangeable risk factors for varicose veins like family history, older age, and female gender, there’s a lot you can do to promote optimal circulation and minimize your risk of developing vein problems. Everyone’s leg circulation can benefit from: 

  • Avoiding long stretches of sitting or standing still 
  • Getting at least 30-60 minutes of exercise each day
  • Losing excess body weight and quitting smoking
  • Switching to a heart-healthy, low-sodium diet plan  

If you have significant accelerating risk factors for varicose veins — such as pregnancy or an occupation that requires you to stand for long periods — you can assist lower extremity circulation by wearing compression stockings and elevating your legs as often as possible. 

And remember, while there’s a lot you can do to improve your circulation and reduce your varicose vein risk, you can’t eliminate that risk altogether. If you happen to develop an unsightly, uncomfortable, or unwanted varicose vein, we can help. 

To learn more about the minimally invasive varicose vein treatment options at Colorado Skin and Vein in Englewood, Colorado, call or click online and schedule a consultation today. 

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