What Causes Varicose Veins?

By Michele C. Hollow @michelechollow
October 24, 2017

About 1 in 4 older Americans have varicose veins. Here’s what you need to know about what causes varicose veins and treatments you can do at home.

Those bluish purple thin lines that appear on your legs may not be pretty to look at, but often are harmless. If, however, you notice that these lines are starting to swell and ache, you should see your doctor.

What causes varicose veins is when the one-direction valves on your veins fail. These valves prevent blood from flowing backwards. When these valves don’t function properly, blood collects in the veins instead of moving toward your heart. This causes the veins in your legs to enlarge, often appearing twisty.

The reason varicose veins usually form on your legs is because your legs are the farthest from your heart, and gravity makes it difficult for the blood to flow upwards.

Other causes for varicose veins include pregnancy, menopause, standing for long periods of time, obesity, heredity, and aging. Varicose veins usually affect people ages 50 and up. Younger people can get them, too.


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Symptoms of varicose veins

There are superficial and deep varicose veins. Superficial can be seen. Deep are usually not visible but can cause aching and swelling of your legs. Often deep and superficial occur together. Blood clots can form in deep varicose veins, which can be dangerous. Clotting in superficial varicose veins can cause bleeding or ulcers, but they are not typically life-threatening.

The main symptoms of varicose veins are misshapen bluish purple veins that are quite visible. It’s also possible to experience pressure, swelling, cramping, and pain on and around the enlarged veins. Discoloration of the area can also occur. A large percent of people with varicose veins also have restless legs syndrome.


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March 03, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA