“Varicose” is derived from the Latin word “Varix”, meaning “Twisted”.
Varicose veins are caused by gravity and faulty valves within the vein. When blood flows into the feet the heart has to pump it uphill, against gravity. Within the veins are valves they act as backflow preventers, in theory the same as a basement sump pump. The sump pump pushes the water upward and past the backflow preventer valve, so when the pump shuts down no water can flow backwards into the basement. The heart never shuts down unless were dead, so imagine the heart pumping blood upward in the leg and a valve is stuck open, some of the blood is always leaking back towards the foot and as a person gets older the heart (pump) and the valves gets weaker. The blood begins to pool in the veins, the veins bulge from the added pressure and transform into varicose veins.
There are other reasons valves (there are many valves in a vein) will becomes faulty, Added pressure, this is why pregnant women, people who are on their feet constantly are prone to them and let’s not forget genetics, you just might be cursed.
The good news is that the varicose veins you see are the outer/superficial veins in the leg. They only carry 10% of the blood. This is why surgery is not always recommended. Many times there is not a health threat but more of a vanity issue. In no shape or form can they be called appealing. The bad news is that 50% of people over the age of 50 have them. Women are 3 – 4 times more likely to get them than men.
The big worry is, if you have varicose veins on the outside/superficial part of the leg, do you have them in what is called the “Deep Veins” that carry 90% of the blood? Deep Vein Thrombosis is when a Deep Vein clots.
Your Doctor will inform you if surgery is needed, sometimes even superficial veins can be painful. There are many different procedures available today.
Many times conservative treatment is recommended, which usually consists of:
- Lifestyle Changes that is pretty much standard for any illness – Lose weight if you are overweight and exercise
- Avoid standing to long
- Avoid sitting to long
- Avoid crossing your legs
- Elevate your legs above your heart when sleeping or at your desk
- Eliminate salty foods
- Eat more fiber
- Drink lots of water, this will help prevent blood clots
- Wear compression stockings, they will relieve swelling and help the blood flow upward towards the heart. This is accomplished by gradient pressure.