What Causes Varicose Veins in Legs? Understanding the Root of the Problem

March 19, 2024

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Have you ever noticed those bulging, twisted veins on your legs? Those are called varicose veins, and they usually show up on the legs and feet. “Varicose veins, those bulging and twisted veins, can be unsightly and uncomfortable. Let’s explore what causes them to develop in your legs,” says Dr. Sarah Johnson, a vascular specialist.

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The One-Way Street Disrupted: Why Veins Become Varicose

To understand what causes varicose veins, let’s first look at how healthy veins work. Veins are like one-way streets that carry blood back to the heart. They have special valves that keep blood flowing in the right direction and stop it from flowing backward.

Focus: When these valves get weak or damaged, blood can pool in the veins instead of moving up to the heart like it should. Over time, this pooling makes the veins stretch out and become varicose.

Risk Factors: Who’s More Prone to Varicose Veins?

Some people are more likely to get varicose veins than others. Here are the main risk factors:

  1. Heredity: If your parents or grandparents had varicose veins, you might get them too. It can run in families.
  2. Age: As we get older, our vein walls and valves can weaken, making varicose veins more likely.
  3. Pregnancy: When a woman is pregnant, her body makes more blood to support the baby. This extra blood and hormones can make veins stretch out.
  4. Gender: Women are more likely to get varicose veins than men, partly because of hormones.
  5. Weight: Carrying extra weight puts more strain on the veins in your legs.
  6. Lifestyle factors: Sitting or standing for long times can make blood pool in your legs and lead to varicose veins.

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Beyond the Basics: Less Common Causes of Varicose Veins

While the risk factors above are the most common causes of varicose veins, there are a few other things that can contribute:

  • Blood clots: If you’ve had a blood clot in your leg, it can damage the valves in your veins and cause varicose veins later on.
  • Trauma: An injury to your leg, like a broken bone or a deep cut, can sometimes lead to varicose veins.
  • May-Thurner Syndrome: This rare condition happens when a vein in your pelvis is squeezed by an artery, which can cause varicose veins in your leg.

When to See a Doctor: Not All Leg Veins Are Created Equal

It’s important to remember that not all visible veins on your legs are varicose veins. If you’re worried about how your veins look or feel, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. They can tell if you have varicose veins or something else going on.

Importance of Early Detection: Don’t wait to get your veins checked out if they’re bothering you. Catching varicose veins early can help prevent more serious problems down the road.

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Can I prevent varicose veins?

While you can’t control some risk factors like age and genetics, staying active, keeping a healthy weight, and avoiding long periods of sitting or standing can help lower your chances of getting varicose veins.

Are varicose veins just a cosmetic concern?

Varicose veins can be more than a cosmetic issue. They can cause aching, throbbing, and heaviness in the legs. In some cases, they can lead to more serious problems like ulcers or blood clots.

What are the symptoms of varicose veins?

Besides the visible bulging veins, symptoms can include aching, swelling, heaviness, itching, and cramping in the legs.

What are some complications of varicose veins?

If left untreated, varicose veins can sometimes lead to skin changes, ulcers, bleeding, and blood clots.

How are varicose veins treated?

Treatment options range from lifestyle changes and compression stockings to minimally invasive procedures like sclerotherapy or laser therapy. In more severe cases, surgery may be needed. Your doctor can help you decide what’s best for you.


So, what’s the bottom line on what causes varicose veins in the legs? It’s usually a combination of factors like genetics, age, hormones, weight, and lifestyle. When the valves in your leg veins get weak or damaged, blood can pool and make the veins stretch out and become varicose.

Takeaway: If you think you might have varicose veins, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor. They can help you figure out what’s causing your veins to bulge and recommend the best treatment plan for you. With the right approach, you can get your leg veins back on the right track!

Key Points

  • Varicose veins are caused by weak or damaged valves in the leg veins
  • Risk factors include age, genetics, pregnancy, excess weight, and sitting or standing for long periods
  • Less common causes can include blood clots, trauma, and a rare condition called May-Thurner Syndrome
  • Symptoms can include aching, swelling, heaviness, itching, and cramping in the legs
  • Treatment options range from lifestyle changes to minimally invasive procedures and surgery


  1. Mayo Clinic – Varicose Veins
  2. NHS – Varicose Veins
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