Varicose veins are enlarged veins that are visible under the skin. At their worst, they look like bunches of grapes lying beneath the skin and at their least severe they can take the form of thread veins (also known as spider veins), which are smaller and do not protrude from the skin. Any superficial vein can become varicose or develop into a thread vein if the blood does not flow through the venous system quickly enough, and the thin walls surrounding the veins stretch. The legs and feet are most commonly affected.
How do varicose veins develop?
In a normal vein, blood flows in one direction only- towards the heart. There are valves within the inner wall of most veins, which prevent blood flowing backwards by opening to allow the blood through and then closing to keep it from back draining. A vein becomes “varicose” when these valves fail to work properly. Blood pools within the vein, and the increased pressure causes the vein to bulge and lengthen, resulting in a varicose vein.
Factors which make you more likely to develop varicose veins:
+ Gender: It is thought that female hormones make the walls of veins more likely to stretch. + Pregnancy: The higher levels of female hormones and the pressure exerted by the uterus on the main veins in the body make a pregnant woman more likely to develop varicose veins. However, 40% of these women find that their varicose veins disappear within 3 months of giving birth. + Genetics: Your risk of developing varicose veins is greater if a close family member has them. + Obesity: Excess weight exerts pressure on the venous system, increasing the chances that varicose veins will develop. Lack of mobility and high blood pressure which are caused by obesity will also make the symptoms of varicose veins worse. + Age: All the tissues in out body loose elasticity as we get older, including the walls of veins. This makes them more likely to stretch and become varicose.
Varicose veins are enlarged veins that can be painful and may even cause swelling of the ankles. They typically form in the legs and are caused by malfunctioning vein valves, which don’t allow the blood to flow backwards. As a result, superficial veins carrying high-pressure blood from the deeper system become affected.