Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are unsightly, enlarged, and protuberating veins that are commonly located on the backs of the calves or on the inside of the legs. The term "varicose" originates from the Latin word "varix," which means "twisted." This condition may appear anywhere on the body but the veins in the legs and in the feet are mostly affected. Varicose veins are relatively common and nearly 15 percent of men and 25 percent of women in the United States are affected by this condition. In some cases varicose veins are more than a cosmetic problem because they can also cause severe pain and discomfort. This condition may also indicate that the patient is suffering from a disorder of the circulatory system.

Causes and Risk Factors

Arteries carry oxygenated blood from the heart to all of the other organs of the body and deoxygenated blood is carried back to the heart by the veins. Some veins, like those in the legs, must work against gravity to carry the blood to the heart. The basic cause of varicose veins is still unknown, but it is believed to be related to the excess pressure that pushes on the walls of veins. The loss in the elasticity of these walls can cause them to weaken and affect the circulation pattern. The problem is further compounded by faulty valves (which regulate the circulation) in the veins. As mentioned earlier, veins in the legs and feet are affected the most by this condition. Hemorrhoids are varicose veins that are located in and around the anus but they must be treated differently than other varicose veins because of their location.

Some of the factors that increase the risk of developing varicose veins are:

Age: As age increases, the vein walls lose their elasticity and the valves become weaker. Individuals who are over 50 years old are more susceptible to this condition.
Gender: Women are more likely than men to have varicose veins and this is mainly because of hormonal fluctuations. Pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause can cause varicose veins. In fact, several women develop varicose veins during pregnancy. Pregnancy increases the volume of blood in the body but simultaneously decreases the flow of blood from the legs to the pelvis. This system ensures that the growing fetus receives all of the necessary nutrients. However, an unfortunate side effect of this system is the formation of enlarged veins in the legs during pregnancy.
Genetics: It is believed that varicose veins may also be hereditary. If anyone in your immediate family has experienced varicose veins, then the chance of you suffering from this condition increases greatly.
Obesity: Overweight individuals have a greater risk of developing enlarged veins because the excess body weight inflicts excessive pressure on the veins of their legs.

Posture: If your profession involves standing or remaining in the same position for long hours, you may be susceptible to developing varicose veins. This contributes to the development of varicose veins because remaining in a fixed position for a long duration may disrupt blood circulation and recirculation.

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