You know them well! Those ugly, lumpy, blue veins that look like swollen cords snaking up and down your legs.. They’re usually found on the back of the calves and along the inside of the leg, although they can be found in such strange places as the anal area and the vagina. Even though these veins are quite unsavory in appearance, they don’t always cause pain or other discomfort. What exactly is the cause of a varicose vein?
First, it may be reassuring to know that over half of all American women and up to 40% of men have some form of vein problem. Varicosities commonly appear as we get older and there may be a genetic predispositions to them. If your Aunt Sally has them, there’s an increased chance that you might one day develop varicose veins also. Another time you’re more vulnerable to viscosities is during pregnancy, or if you’re obese, or have sustained a leg injury.
The cause of a varicose vein is not completely known. What we do know is that it involves damage to the valves of the large veins. To put it simply, veins carry blood back to the heart from the body. Blood is pumped upwards through the leg as it makes its way back to the heart. The veins are designed with one way valves that prevent blood from flowing backwards during it’s journey back home to the heart. In varicose veins, the one way valves are thought to become weakened so that blood travels less efficiently up the vein and tends to pool in the lower leg, causing the appearance of dilated, swollen, blue vessels we know as varicose veins.
Anything that causes the veins to sustain increased pressure can cause development of a varicosity This is why obesity and pregnancy are associated with varicose veins. The expanding uterus and abdomen respectively put excess pressure on the leg veins, causing the one way valves to weaken allowing blood to pool in the lower extremities.
What’s the result of all this?
Other than having to deal with the undesirable appearance of those torturous looking veins, you may have no symptoms at all. When symptoms do develop, they can include such manifestations as a sensation of tiredness and fatigue in the legs, swelling of the ankles, and sometimes an achy sensation in the lower extremities. In some cases, the overlying skin on the leg is affected with the development of a brown or purple skin discoloration due the polling of blood. In extreme cases, this can result in the formation of leg sores or ulcers. Sometimes the veins near the surface of the leg can become inflamed as a result of a vein blockage, this is a condition known as thrombophlebitis. Rarely, you can also have bleeding of a superficial varicose vein. If you should sustain a significant bleed from a varicose vein, see your doctor immediately as it may be difficult to stop.
Now that you understand the cause of a varicose vein, we’ll discuss treatment of them in the next article.