Varicose Veins - Symptoms & Causes

Varicose veins are swollen, twisted blood vessels that appear just under the skin's surface, often in the legs.

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When Does Varicose Veins Occur?

Varicose veins occur when the walls and valves of the veins become weak and damaged. Veins carry the blood back to your heart, pushing it upwards. The veins have tiny one-way valves that prevent the blood from flowing back down, but sometimes these valves can become weak. When this happens blood leaks and pools in the vein, causing it to swell. 

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Who Is at Risk of Developing Varicose Veins?

Some people are more prone to develop varicose veins due to several factors, such as: 


Women are more likely than men to get varicose veins because of female hormones. The hormones can relax the walls of the veins, making them stretch and leak.


During pregnancy the pressure of the growing uterus on the pelvic veins can hinder the blood flow from the legs back to the heart. Hormonal changes can also play a role in relaxing the vein walls. These factors can lead to the development of varicose veins during pregnancy, although they often improve or resolve after childbirth. 


As we age the veins tend to lose some of their elasticity and become less effective at pushing blood back to the heart.


You are more likely to develop varicose veins if an immediate family member has the condition

Standing for prolonged time:

Certain jobs or lifestyles that require standing for a long time can increase the risk of getting varicose veins because blood is not flowing that easily.

Being overweight:

Excess body weight can put additional pressure on the veins in the legs. This added pressure can weaken the vein walls and valves, causing varicose veins. Overweight women seem to be more prone to varicose veins than men.


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Varicose Veins Symptoms

Besides the swollen, bulging appearance and darker colour, varicose veins can also cause the following symptoms: 

  • Legs feeling heavy and achy

  • A burning or throbbing sensation

  • Itchy skin around the area of the affected vein

  • Muscle cramps, more often at night

  • Swollen feet and ankles

These symptoms can worsen in hot weather or after a prolonged period of standing. Moving your legs and keeping them elevated can temporarily relieve the symptoms.


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