Varicose Vein Information
Varicose veins are enlarged and swollen veins that are usually a dark purple or blue colour. They are often bulging or lumpy and are mainly found in the legs, although they can occur in different parts of the body. Sufferers of varicose veins can have symptoms such as aching legs pain, swollen feet and ankles and muscle cramps in the legs, as well as dry or itchy skin around the site of the vein. This is a common condition, affecting up to three in ten adults.
Why do varicose veins occur?
Veins contain small valves that help direct blood flow to the heart. These valves prevent blood from flowing backwards. Varicose veins occur when these small valves stop working properly, usually because the veins becomes stretched. Blood can then flow backwards meaning that it can pool in the vein causing it to become enlarged and varicose. The reasons why the walls of the vein are stretched are not fully understood but can be exacerbated by:
- Gender – Women are more likely to suffer with varicose veins as a result of female hormones which can relax the vein walls
- Genetic predisposition
- Increasing age
- Being overweight – excess body weight adds pressure to the veins which can cause damage to the valves. This seems to be more so in women
- Prolonged standing – this reduces ease of blood flow
- Pregnancy – raised hormone levels and increased blood and pressure can cause damage to the veins
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