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Venous Reflux Disease

The cause of varicose veins

Varicose veins are very common; about half of all adults aged 40-69 have them. That equates to about 20 million people in the United States who are suffering from varicose veins or spider veins, which appear on the surface and give the skin a discolored appearance.

In addition to being unsightly, they can be painful and sometimes even debilitating. Women are twice as likely as males to develop varicose and spider veins, but there are still millions of men who suffer from this condition.

There are several causes of varicose veins. You may have them as a normal part of the aging process. If one or more family members have had varicose veins, they may have been passed along to you genetically by your parents. Varicose veins can also be the result of hormonal changes, which can “relax” the walls within the vein and cause them to bulge. This is one of the reasons why they are so common in women.

Varicose veins may also be the result of one or more conditions that can put a greater-than-normal amount of pressure on the leg veins, such as a job that requires prolonged standing, or if you’re overweight or pregnant. Varicose veins can also be the result of more serious vein disease, which can reveal itself in blood clots or in other conditions that may have required vascular surgery.

Varicose veins are the direct result of something called venous reflux. A healthy valve within the vein prevents blood from “pooling” or flowing backward into the vein when it closes. But an unhealthy valve can allow blood to flow the wrong way, toward the foot, which causes the vein to fill with blood and bulge outward.

When the valves fail to operate properly, blood flows downward toward your foot instead of back to the heart, and then the blood begins to pool within the vein. The subsequent pressure builds up and causes veins to swell and become varicose, and may also result in other skin conditions.

vericose veins