Font Size: Increase | Decrease

What causes veins to widen?

This question was asked in Irvine, California and has 9 answer(s) as of 04/02/2013.
Is there a venous disease that causes the veins to widen? My mother was told by her doctor that her veins are widening. She is overweight at 230 pounds. Her doctor is quite adamant that she needs an operation but we do not know if this is compulsory or not.


Doctors Answers (9)

We don't know the cause of varicose vein disease that which 'widens veins' as you call it. There are many risk factors that increase a person's chances of developing this problem. They include: being a woman, having pregnancies, being overweight/obese, standing occupations, family history of varicose veins. Operations (ie. surgeries) are not compulsory. A patient has a choice of what treatments are available for their particular problem. In the case of varicose vein disease, surgery is not performed as often as it used to be, thankfully. Today, there are non-surgical options, the most popular use 'heat to cook the lining of the offending vein'. One example of such a 'heat" approach is laser ablation. Please bring in your mother for a consultation so I may examine her vein problem and render more specific recommendations.

Widening veins can be a description of varicose veins which are due to a many factors including genetics, number of pregnancies, amount of time standing (can be work related), lack of physical activity, and wearing high heeled shoes contribute to varicose veins. Being overweight can be an indirect risk factor for varicose veins due to limiting physical activity such as sports and exercise including walking. It is not clear what operation was suggested but varicose veins can be treated in an office setting and this should not be considered something urgently needed but could be of benefit if she has symptoms that are caused by her varicose veins.

Varicose veins can be by failure and dilation of the veins. There are two important factors that amplify each other, as the veins and the valves inside of them fail they put more pressure through back flow on the veins behind them. Think of cards lined up on a table being knocked down as the one above it falls backward. The other problem the veins dilate that causes the valves to fail. These interconnected feedback or amplifications are what is going on in venous insufficiency, which is the underlying disease process behind varicose veins. There is a susceptibility for this if you have the genes to make certain types of collagen in your veins. That’s why vein trouble runs in families.

Leg veins usually widen because of abnormal backward flow (reflux) in the leg veins. Here's a good analogy. When water runs down the mountain into the rivers below, the banks of the river must widen/ enlarge to accommodate all the water running off the mountain. The same is true with leg veins. When the blood is flowing backwards (reflux) down the legs instead of flowing toward the heart, the veins widen/ enlarge to accommodate all the blood in the leg veins.

The veins widening because of increasing venous pressure (pressure in the veins). Her weight may play a factor but there is probably worsening reflux (blood flowing backwards) in the vein that feeds the varicose veins. If the veins are symptomatic then I would recommend a procedure. She should try compression stockings first.

I believe what the doctor was trying to explain to your mother, is that veins widen when the one way valves that prevent gravity forces from holding blood in the leg veins stop working. Veins carry the 'used' blood back to the heart and lungs so the blood can be recirculated after it regains fresh oxygen. If the valves in the veins aren't working, then the veins can stretch out, (widen), because gravity is causing the blood to pool in the veins. This is know as venous valve incompetence. This frequently causes symptoms, such as leg aching, leg cramps, leg swelling, and in severe cases, ulceration of the skin. If your mother is having any of these symptoms, then surgery may relieve them. However, today, all surgical procedures for venous incompetence can be done with a minimally invasive approach that would include some form of vein closure done with a laser or radio-frequency catheter in the office.

Veins can widen due to hormones, heredity, obesity, pregnancy etc. she can wear compression hose and try weight loss. If this does not work then try laser or vnus closure or minimally invasive closure of the veins.

Leg veins will widen if there's an upward obstruction ( eg: clot...). Or if there is reflux (or return) of blood due to faulty vein valves Both scenarios are best studied with an ultrasound exam.

The pressures created in the veins of the body by the force of gravity over time will cause the veins to stretch. When they stretch in diameter, the one-way valves in the veins begin to fail which allows blood to run down the veins of the legs toward the feet. Elongation of the veins as they stretch results in tortuous or curved veins since the body does not elongate with the veins. The process which all of us will develop to some extent is called chronic venous insufficiency which refers to the failure of the one-way valves and resulting abnormally high pressures of the veins in the legs. The problem is made worse by obesity which compresses the veins of the abdomen and pelvis limiting flow of blood from the legs back to the heart. Genetic factors have a great deal to do with the severity and early onset of venous insufficiency. The inheritance pattern apparently involves many genes from both parents that influence the strength of the vein walls. Weight loss, periodic elevation of the legs higher than the heart, routine daily use of elastic compression stockings, avoidance of prolonged sitting or standing, and moderate exercise all help slow down the progression of venous insufficiency but will not stop the progressive effects of gravity on our veins. The indications and types of treatments depend on the size, shape, and location of the abnormal veins.

Disclaimer: The information found on this website is intended to be general medical information; it is not a medical diagnosis or medical advice. Specific medical advice can only be given with full knowledge of all of the facts and circumstances of your health situation. You should seek consultation with a doctor familiar with your medical condition. Posting a question on this website does not create a doctor-patient relationship. All questions you post will be available to the public; do not include confidential information in your question.