In the United States it is estimated that 25 million people have varicose veins. By the time we reach our 60’s it is estimated that 72% of women and 42% of men will experience varicose veins. Over 1 billion dollars is spent annually for the complications of varicose veins, predominately ulcers.
The term “varicose vein” is a general term used to describe veins that are enlarged with leaky valves. People usually use this term to describe the big, bulging, rope-like veins seen in legs. These veins have become permanently dilated so that they no longer effectively transport blood back to the heart. The valves normally allow blood to flow up, out of your legs, and back to your heart. Varicose veins occur because the one-way valves in the veins leak, allowing blood to flow backwards in a vein. The reverse flow of blood distends the vein below eventually causing valves below to leak and new veins to dilate and become varicose.
The venous system consists of three systems of veins. The superficial system lies just below the surface of the skin. The great and small saphenous veins and their branches are the main superficial system veins. They carry blood from just below the skin and tissues and drain into the deep system, which lie between the muscles of the leg. The deep system is responsible for carrying 90% of the blood back to the heart. A third system consists of perforating veins, which carry blood from the superficial system to the deep system. Varicose veins occur in the superficial system. Perforator veins may also demonstrate incompetence and create or worsen existing varicose veins.
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What Causes Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins may occur for no obvious reason. There are however, multiple factors that may increase your risk of developing varicose veins. These include:
- Excessive body weight
- Prolonged standing or sitting on a daily basis
- Hormonal factors
- Advancing age
- Female Gender
- Clots in the superficial or deep veins
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins may cause an aching or burning feeling in your legs, pain, itching around the vein, or at the ankle, swelling, color changes in the skin, firm hard tissue around the ankle and if left untreated, eventually ulcers. Read more about Our Treatments for Leg Varicose Veins.