The good news is that a great deal can be done to prevent this from ever happening, and to improve things once they have, as long as the causes of the problem can be dealt with.
Factors which make varicose veins more likely include:
- excessive weight (more than 20% above normal bodyweight)
- excessive weight bearing (weight training, carrying etc)
- inadequate exercise (sedentary occupations)
- excessive standing (waiter, hairdresser, soldier)
- increased intra-pelvic pressure (chronic constipation,
straining at stool, tight restricting girdles, poor posture,
- poor nutritional status
- use of the contraceptive pill
Who Gets Varicose Veins and Are There Dangers?
Very few people in non-industrialized societies ever develop varicose veins but one person in five in the UK has or will have them, and most will relate to their legs.
When not in the legs the commonest sites are the scrotum (varicocele) and the rectal region (haemorrhoids).
In themselves the bunched clusters of tortuous worm-like superficial varicose veins are not dangerous.
The dangers that can develop relate to the relative slow moving nature of blood in varicose veins.
Because it cannot easily move along, due to valve incompetence, the blood becomes increasingly static, or may actually flow backwards.
The symptoms most commonly associated with this sort of picture include heaviness and aching in the area, discolouration of the tissues and commonly itching of the skin over the veins, as well as a generalized tendency to swelling in the limb, mainly affecting the ankles and feet but often the entire calf or at times the whole leg.
When the left leg only is affected it can be suspected that the cause lies in intra-abdominal pressure due to chronic constipation. When overweight or mechanical lifting stress is involved it will affect both legs.
Varicose eczema may develop and in time the skin and overlying tissue may break down leading to varicose ulcers and even to haemorrhage of the vein.
For many people, especially in the early stages, there is nothing more obvious that a tendency for the legs to feel tired more easily than previously.
When haemorrhoids or varicoceles develop symptoms are similar (heaviness, aching, irritation) with the underlying causes being much the same.
Phlebitis and DVT
A possibly serious consequence of varicose veins can be the development of inflammation of the vein (phlebitis).
Some researchers believe that varicose veins do not show themselves until there has been an incident of what is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), the presence of a blood clot caused by the sluggish movement of the blood or because the blood had a more viscous (sticky) nature than usual.
Another reason for a thrombosis can be the development of a constriction or narrowing in the vessel causing the blood passing through it to swirl and to possibly produce a clot.
The result of any of these causes of a thrombosis would be an inflammation of the vein and consequent damage to it, resulting in varicosity.
It is seldom possible in any given case to say whether the venous damage comes before the thrombosis or the other way around, the same features and factors apply in both sequences.
If there is a DVT or phlebitis the signs will be local warmth , tenderness and swelling, but these signs can also relate to a muscle injury or cellulitis (inflammation of the connective tissues), therefore if in any doubt at all get expert advice.