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A common problem in people age 50 and older, varicose veins are enlarged veins most commonly found on the inside of the leg or on the backs of the calves. Pregnant women may also have them near the vagina or anus. Treatment for may involve sclerotherapy, endovenous techniques, or various surgeries. Most people experience good results from treatment, although some varicose veins will come back.
What Are Varicose Veins?Varicose veins are enlarged veins that can be flesh-colored, dark purple, or blue. They often look like cords, and appear twisted and bulging. They are swollen and raised above the surface of the skin. Varicose veins are commonly found on the backs of the calves or on the inside of the leg. During pregnancy, varicose veins called hemorrhoids can form in the vagina or around the anus.
About 50 to 55 percent of American women and 40 to 45 percent of American men suffer from some form of vein problem. Varicose veins affect 1 out of 2 people age 50 and older.
What Causes Varicose Veins?The cause of varicose veins is a weakening of one-way valves within the veins. When these valves weaken, blood can leak back in the vein and collect there and enlarge the vein.
Gravity and Varicose VeinsThe force of gravity, the pressure of body weight, and the task of carrying blood from the bottom of the body up to the heart make legs the primary location for varicose and spider veins. Compared with other veins in the body, leg veins have the toughest job of carrying blood back to the heart. They endure the most pressure. This pressure can be stronger than the veins' one-way valves.
What Are the Risk Factors?While not causes of varicose veins, there are a number of factors that increase a person's chances for developing weakened valves. These are known as risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances for developing the condition.
Risk factors for varicose veins include:
- Increasing age
- Hormonal changes
- Leg injury
- Prolonged standing.