Varicose veins are a very common affliction for both men and women over the age of 40, with somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 million or more sufferers nationwide.

They often cause symptoms like visible, protruding veins that are blue, purple or flesh colored; leg fatigue and aches, swelling in the legs and feet, leg restlessness at night, skin discoloration or irritation, or open sores on the ankles and feet.

While varicose veins vary widely in appearance, severity and painfulness among individuals who have them, the underlying cause is the same for everyone.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

They’re caused by venous insufficiency, or damage to the veins in your body, for a number of reasons. Veins are the part of your circulatory system that pumps blood back to the heart and lungs for oxygenation after nutrients and oxygen have been delivered throughout the body. To do this, tiny valves inside your veins keep blood pressure steady. Over time, or with added stress on the body, these valves can get damaged or worn out, letting blood pool in them and causing swollen and sometimes blue-looking veins.

Varicose veins show up in the lower leg area because of simple gravity; leg veins have the hardest job in the body because they must pump harder and higher to keep blood flowing back upward to the heart, and the valves tend to wear out faster as a result. With the underlying cause being vein damage, varicose veins can occur in a number of ways.

Risk Factors for Varicose Veins

  • Age: The natural loss of elasticity over time and the gradual weakening of your venous valves is often a result of normal aging processes and plain old wear and tear on your body.
  • Pregnancy: The changes in blood volume and flow in the body can result in varicose veins for some women during pregnancy. It’s still important to talk to a doctor about this, as the damage can remain after pregnancy.
  • Gender: Women have about twice the risk of varicose veins as men do, possibly due to hormonal changes in the body that affect the veins throughout life, including pregnancy and menopause.
  • Family History: When one or more of your close relatives have or had varicose veins, the likelihood of you developing them is greater.
  • Weight and Activity: Being obese or overweight puts more stress on your veins, often raises your blood pressure, and makes your veins work harder and wear out faster. A sedentary lifestyle or workday that has you standing or sitting in the same position for long periods also contributes to poor blood flow and increased risk.

Just because varicose veins are common doesn’t mean they’re not serious; the underlying venous insufficiency can cause major complications and worsen over time, even resulting in ulceration and sores on the legs and feet due to poor blood flow. Early treatment at Advanced Vein Center, serving the Portland, Maine area, can eliminate the problem veins, troublesome symptoms, and restore your veins to better health. Call today!