Varicose veins are bluish blood vessels, often visible at the back of the knee, or on the lower leg and ankle. They are fairly common and, in the long term, many people will develop them at some point.
But what are varicose veins precisely? Simply put, they are expanded, swollen and twisted veins in which the venous valves are no longer functioning properly. When standing or sitting, the blood in these pathologically altered veins is no longer transported back rapidly enough to the heart. This results in so-called vascular congestion.
Varicose veins usually don’t constitute a serious medical condition. For many people, they are simply a cosmetic concern, while for other varicose veins cause aching pain and discomfort. Nevertheless, if this venous disease progresses, it can cause much more severe issues like venous leg ulcers.
Varices can lead to symptoms like:
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms and a medical professional recommends treatment, there are a few options available. Compression, for example, is an effective method of relieving the symptoms: at JOBST, we have a range of medical compression stockings specially designed to counteract varicose veins and other venous symptoms. Additionally, exercising regularly and elevating your legs when you sit or lie down is highly beneficial. If you’re still in discomfort, or have any concerns, consult your doctor – they can help you further.
But how do varicose veins form, and what’s the cause?
Varicose veins are usually caused by weak vein walls and valves. The veins contain very small one-way valves that open to let the blood through, and then close to prevent it flowing backwards. Sometimes the walls of the veins stretch and lose their elasticity, causing the valves to weaken. If the valves don't function properly, this can cause the blood to leak and flow backwards. If this happens, the blood collects in the veins, which become visibly swollen and blue. The reasons why the walls of the veins stretch and the valves in the veins weaken aren't fully understood.
Note: the above description describes primary varicose veins, but there is also a secondary type of varicose veins. This occurs when a clot blocks the blood vessel so that the blood flow is disturbed, such as in the case of deep vein thrombosis.
The following factors can all influence your likelihood of developing varicose veins: