Why Do Varicose Veins Occur More in the Legs?

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
Varicose veins legs

When it comes to blood flow, it’s all about the physics. Find out how factors like gravity impact which areas of the body are most often affected by varicose veins.

More often that not, uncomfortable and unsightly varicose veins occur in the legs. But why is that? Patients might be asking themselves why varicose veins don’t usually appear in the arms or hands, or anywhere else in the body.

As it turns out, physics is largely to blame for the positioning of varicose veins in the legs and feet. Here’s why:

The Impact of Gravity

Veins have one job: to get blood from the extremities back to the heart. To accomplish this, they have a series of one-way valves that, when working properly, prevent blood from flowing in the wrong direction. However, if those valves stop functioning, then the blood slows down and even begins to pool in the veins. Pooling blood puts extra pressure on the walls of the veins, causing them to expand and deform, which results in the twisted appearance of varicose veins.

Veins in the legs have two challenges working against them. First, they are located further away from the heart than for example, the arms or fingers. The leg veins have a tough task to begin with, which is compounded by the second problem: gravity. When you’re standing or sitting, the veins in your legs have to fight gravity to return blood back to the heart. That means it’s much easier for blood to pool in the lower extremities than other parts of the body.

In addition, the legs are put at risk during long periods of inactivity. Veins depend on the muscles around them, such as the calf and quadricep muscles, to contract and help pump blood toward its destination. If you are standing or sitting still for hours at a time, those muscles are not contracting and the valves are left to fend for themselves.

Gravity and prolonged inactivity generally don’t affect the arms or other areas of the body as frequently. This is why the legs are especially prone to developing varicose veins, while the condition is less common elsewhere.

Treatment for Varicose Veins

Some people do have prominent veins on their hands or arms, but they are rarely varicose veins. Unlike true varicose veins, these veins don’t generally cause physical pain or discomfort, so it’s not as necessary to treat them. Varicose veins in the legs, however, can keep patients from participating in the activities that they love.

When it comes to treating varicose veins, patients have a few options. Compression stockings, which help counteract the role of gravity by forcing blood upwards, are usually the first step. It’s recommended that people taking long plane or car trips wear compression stockings and periodically stretch their legs in order to get their muscles to contract.

In combination with compression stockings, there there several outpatient procedures like laser ablation or sclerotherapy that can eliminate the symptoms of varicose veins and improve patients’ quality of life. Schedule a consultation at the Center for Vein Restoration today to discuss your treatment options.

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