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How does standing or sitting extensively cause varicose and spider veins?

I am confused about how varicose veins and spider veins are actually caused. I have heard that standing for a long time results in varicose and spider veins, but I have also heard that sitting for long periods of time causes them. Does standing extensively cause varicose and spider veins or does sitting extensively cause them? Which position is worse than the other in terms of causing vein problems? What should I be doing while standing or sitting to prevent varicose and spider veins?


Doctors Answers (4)

Standing contributes to both varicose and spider veins by causing blood to pool in the legs and venous pressure to increase. Walking and activity act to lift blood out of the legs back to the heart, lowering venous pressure and reducing the risk for vein problems. Sitting for prolonged periods does not cause an increase in venous congestion and pressure as quickly as standing, but lack of movement still causes the blood to pool in the legs. I recommend getting up and walking around for just a minute to help both limit vein problems and compression of the lower back. If you must stand for prolonged periods at work consider wearing 15-20mm/Hg compression leg hose to improve venous blood flow, and take them off at home. Keep active and consider regular walking for exercise and vein health.

Most likely there person who develops varicose or spider veins has a strong family history (parent, grandparent, aunt/uncles, etc.) with these problems. Women, due to hormone fluctuations, pregnancy, and birth control medication/hormone replacement, are more likely to develop vein problems in the presence of a family history. During pregnancy the veins dilate to carry extra blood for the baby. If you are predisposed to veins, standing for long period can put more pressure on the valves in the vein which are weak to begin with. Sitting for prolonged periods of time slows the circulation, as the main pump for the venous blood to return is the calf or thigh muscles. It will not in and of itself cause vein problems, but can increase the risk of blood clots. In all cases we recommend at least a knee-length low compression which keeps graduated pressure on the muscles to promote healthy circulation. These are not your grandmother's stockings: comfortable if measured correctly by an experienced fitter, and stylish.

Varicose veins are generally genetic. Stationary sit or stand for long periods cause progression of this disease. Flying also increases vein diameter and causes progression with those genetically predisposed.

Any position in which the legs are lower than the heart will cause higher pressures to build up in the lower extremity veins due to the force of gravity. Walking or exercising of the calf muscles will pump blood back to the heart, but blood pools in the veins under pressure when one is sitting or standing still. The higher pressures accelerate the stretching of veins which occurs over time. As the veins stretch and valves fail due to the stretching, varicose veins become apparent.

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