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What causes varicose veins to get worse?

This question was asked in Cedarville, Ohio and has 9 answer(s) as of 11/26/2013.
I am forty-five years old and I have had varicose veins since I was young, but now I am noticing them more on my legs and seeing some spider veins on my arms. What could be causing this issue?


Doctors Answers (9)

Over time the valves inside your vein can become weaker. These valves will close to prevent your blood from traveling in the wrong direction. Instead of blood moving back to your heart it will swell in these damaged veins which leads to the increase in varicose and spider veins that you are noticing.

Varicose vein disease is a chronic and progressive condition that is incurable but treatable. Over time, a person suffering from abnormal veins will notice more veins and an increase in symptoms as well. The cause of varicose vein disease is unknown and therefore there is no treatment directed at what makes veins break down. But, there are many treatment options available to treat a wide variety of abnormal veins. It just takes a professional to evaluate and treat the condition. Risk factors that can increase a person's chances of developing abnormal veins include prolonged standing occupations, trauma or injury, females who become pregnant or take hormones.

Varicose veins often start with pregnancies due to the effects of the pregnancy on the venous circulation with a 50% increase in blood volume, circulating hormones which relax connective tissues and a heavy uterus which presses down on the return flow from the legs to the heart. Wearing compression hose during pregnancies and when work requires prolonged standing such as with teachers, can reduce the rate and frequency of new problem veins. Spider veins on the arms, especially around the shoulders can be caused by the weight and trauma of heavy purses, back-packs and even bra straps over the shoulder.

Varicose veins develop in most cases because of the gravitational pressures upon the blood within the veins which causes stretching of the vein walls. This is worse when the pressures in the abdomen are increased, usually due to obesity. The higher pressures in the abdomen and pelvis compress the veins and partially obstruct the venous outflow from the legs back to the heart. Prolonged sitting or standing can contribute to the problem. The hormonal changes with pregnancy and the increased pressure on the pelvic veins by the enlarging womb worsen the problem during pregnancy. Your veins have been stretching due to the effects of gravity since you were born and, over time, the one-way valves in the veins fail and blood runs downward with gravity once the valves fail. The increasing pressures in the vein speed up the stretching. The most important factors in development of varicose veins in North America are genetics, age, and obesity.

Varicose veins will progress over time. Genetics play a big role along with sitting or standing type jobs, multiple pregnancies, lack of exercise and excess body weight. These factors can accelerate the progression of the veins. The things that help to slow or stop the progression of your veins would be to wear graduated support stockings and exercise. This will help prevent the pooling of the blood that will increase the size and number of your veins. The veins you have will not go away on their own so if they are bothersome to you, a consultation with a vein specialist will help you understand the treatment options available.

As we age, the vein walls lose their recoil capability and therefore become more prone to reflux. In addition, females have their estrogen levels peak around 40-50 years of age, and estrogen causes the veins to stretch out and thin out.

Varicose veins get worse over time for several reasons. The underlying cause of varicose veins is venous insufficiency. This is a condition where the one way valves in the veins in the legs fail, causing blood to flow backward and pool in the leg veins. This is a chronic condition and it gets worse over time. The long term effects of gravity and age also play a role in varicose veins and spider veins. Gravity is constantly trying to pull blood back down the legs, putting stress on the valves. As we age, the valve tissue and vein wall tissue weaken. Eventually, these forces can cause the valves to fail, resulting in venous insufficiency. Some people have abnormal veins since they were young because the number one risk factor is genetic. Most people inherit the trait of venous insufficiency, and at some point in their lives, symptoms develop. The protruding veins on the arm are different from the varicose veins on the legs. Arm and hand veins become larger over time because the veins lose their elasticity and dilate. Also, the skin tends to become thinner as we age, and this allows the veins to show more.

Possibilities include weight, genetics, pregnancies, injury and previous blood clots, if any. There could be more possibilities that are as yet undetermined.

Time. Varicose veins are a progressive problem. You can slow the progression in some cases. You should have these checked out and treated if needed. Most insurances do cover treatment for symptomatic varicose veins.

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