Part 1 of 2-Part Series: What are Varicose Veins, and Can They be Prevented?

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Leg health varicose spider

Part 1 of 2-Part Series: What are Varicose Veins, and Can They be Prevented?

Keith C. Nichols, MD, RPV, is a board-certified vein disease expert at Center for Vein Restoration (CVR). In this informative video, he details what varicose veins are, how they develop, and what can be done to reduce one’s risk of developing varicose veins.

What are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are the large ropy veins that you see on the legs. According to Dr. Nichols, varicose veins are a result of vein disease. This progressive disorder undermines the valves in the veins and weakens the vein walls, which allows blood to go backward through the valves. This process is called reflux. Reflux, in turn, increases pressure that can “blow out” the vein wall, resulting in varicose veins.

Are Varicose Veins Always Visible?

Dr. Nichols explains that varicose veins are sometimes hidden in the deeper leg tissue. They are not always visible and can only be found using ultrasound.

Are Varicose Veins Dangerous?

Varicose veins can lead to swelling, pain, massive bleeding, blot clots, infection, and ulcers – and therefore can be dangerous.

Does Sitting Cross-Legged Make Varicose Veins Worse?

Dr. Nichols confirms that there is no good evidence that sitting with one’s legs crossed can worsen varicose veins. However, it has been shown that sitting with one’s legs crossed can make matters worse for those with peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Most people with varicose veins can see the swelling and feel the pain associated with varicose veins. Those with PAD will experience pain when walking that goes away when at rest.

Does Pregnancy Cause Varicose Veins?

Pregnancy can make varicose veins worse. Dr. Nichols likens pregnancy to having a basketball sitting on the largest vein in the body, the inferior vena cava, which “stops the blood flow from coming back up from the legs.” The vena cava is responsible for carrying deoxygenated blood from the legs back up to the heart. In addition, pregnancy hormones dilate (opens) the vessels, which increases the size of the veins, making them “more prone to become varicose,” says. Dr. Nichols.

Can Varicose Veins be Prevented?

Varicose veins are hereditary. If both of your parents have varicose veins, you have a 90 percent chance of developing them too, according to Dr. Nichols. However, there are things that one can do to help reduce their risk of developing varicose veins, including:

  • Keep weight under control
  • Wear compression stockings when traveling long distances by car or flying
  • Don’t soak in a hot tub or warm bath for too long
  • Walk frequently
  • Don’t stand or sit for too long

Schedule a Consultation with a Vein Expert

CVR has more than 100 convenient locations across the United States staffed by physicians who use state-of-the-art technology to treat a range of vein disorders. For more information about how to diagnose and treat your varicose veins, call 1-800-FIX-LEGS or visit centerforvein.com.


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