Varicose veins and spider veins are visible surface manifestations of abnormal, dilated blood vessels. Varicose veins occur when healthy vein walls become weak and swell, causing blood to back up and pool inside the vein. Varicose veins are also related to increased pressure in the leg veins or defective valves in the veins. They may appear as swollen, twisted clusters of blue or purple veins and are sometimes surrounded by thin red capillaries known as spider veins.
Mild forms of venous insufficiency are merely uncomfortable, annoying, or cosmetically disfiguring, but severe venous disease can produce serious systemic consequences and can lead to loss of life or limb. Most patients with venous insufficiency have subjective symptoms that may include pain, soreness, burning, aching, throbbing, cramping, muscle fatigue, and restless legs. Over time, chronic venous insufficiency leads to cutaneous and soft tissue breakdown that can be debilitating.
Varicose veins are very common ailment. They affect around 60% of the population at some time in their lives. They are swollen veins (usually on the legs) that look lumpy and bluish through the skin.
Blood is pumped from your heart to your legs through arteries. Once it has supplied oxygen and nutrients to the legs, blood returns to your heart through your veins. To do this from your legs, blood in your veins must flow upwards, against gravity. The muscles in your legs help this flow. Each time your calf and thigh muscles contract when you are walking, veins deep inside your leg are squeezed. One-way valves inside your veins help prevent the blood from flowing backwards. Walls become weak and swell, causing blood to back up and pool inside the vein. Varicose veins are also related to increased pressure in the leg veins or defective valves in the veins. They may appear as swollen, twisted clusters of blue or purple veins and are sometimes surrounded by thin red capillaries known as spider veins.
The reason varicose veins develop is not fully understood. One of the basic problems is not only a damage to the valves but a lost of vein wall elasticity. In time the vein will dilate and the valves are no longer effective in hindering a back-flow of blood. This means that blood can’t travel up the veins as easily, and is more likely to pool. It is possible that people inherit a tendency for weak venous walls and valves. Alternatively, the vein walls may become weak following an inflammation or thrombosis, which will cause bulging of the vein with time and so damage to the valves.
There is a greater risk of getting varicose veins during pregnancy, because of the higher pressure exercised on the pelvic venous veins and increased in hormonal activity. Adding to this if one is overweight will further increase the pressure in the abdomen and so in the veins. Many other factors have been blamed for varicose veins, such as standing for long periods, crossing your legs while sitting, smoking and poor diet. However, there isn’t reliable scientific evidence to support these theories.