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What causes widening of the veins?

My girlfriend is somewhat overweight and went to her PCP for achy legs. Her doctor told her that her veins are widening, and that she needs treatment. Is there actually a disease where leg veins widen? What causes this widening of the veins? If untreated, will her veins just continue to get wider?

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Doctors Answers (3)

Veins can enlarge (widen) into varicose veins due to increased venous blood pressure either over a short period of time such as with a pregnancy, or can enlarge gradually due to prolonged standing such as with teachers and nurses. Wearing high heeled shoes also can cause varicose veins due to contracted calf muscles and foot arch muscles which normally act as pumps to lift blood up out of the legs toward the heart. If untreated, the veins will either remain similar to the way they appear now or more likely will gradually increase in size and number of enlarged veins.

The widening you mention can actually be dilation of the veins if there is an underlying vein reflux (back flow). The only way to test for this is ultrasound examination in a standing position. If there is a family history of varicose veins this probably is a good idea. In the presence of symptoms (achy, heavy, cramping, skin changes, painful veins) and underlying reflux, these are easily treated with laser in an office setting with little down time. We recommend weight loss for overall health and wellness. Increasing activity/exercise, eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids.

"Widening" is synonymous with varicose veins. It is often seen in people with excess weight; the treatment is usually closure with radio frequency ablation.

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