Varicose veins are generally harmless veins that rise to the surface of your skin. They’re often confused with spider veins (small blue and purple veins that are pronounced but are not stretched or twisted). 

If you suffer from varicose veins, you’re not alone. In fact, around 50 percent of women see these purple and blue veins protruding from their skin at some point in their lives. Find out if you’ve got them, if you’re going to get them and what you can do to prevent varicose veins.

What Are Varicose Veins?

Put simply, varicose veins are enlarged veins that become engorged. Any vein in the body could become enlarged, but varicose ones are most common in the legs. 

They sometimes look blue or purple. They can simply seem more pronounced than other veins in your body. Or, they can bulge out and appear as tiny cords, just underneath the surface of your skin.

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

The symptoms of these veins are easy to spot: if your veins look twisted or are protruding from your skin, you probably have them. 

The most common misdiagnosis happens when spider veins are confused for varicose veins. 

Varicose Veins Causes

There are several reasons you could start suffering from varicose veins. Women begin noticing these pronounced veins in their dermis at all ages — though they can appear more pronounced in more mature skin.

When pressure is constantly placed on the legs, feet, arms and hands over time, these veins can emerge. 

The reason they are most common in the legs is that your legs sustain more pressure than other parts of your body; they essentially support the rest of your body.

Your Chances of Getting Varicose Veins are Higher If…

Your mom has them.

Genetics could possibly play a role in the likelihood of getting varicose veins. But while there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence, the National Center for Biology Information (NCBI) hasn’t found enough substantial information to back this idea up. 

Yet if close family members have varicose veins, you might want to keep an eye out for other known causes (such as standing or sitting for long periods of time).

You’re tall.

Yes, being tall makes your likelihood of seeing these veins later in life more possible. In a 2018 Stanford study, researchers found that taller women developed varicose veins more often than shorter women. The kicker? They also discovered there might be a close link between taller women and the genes that make them tall. This again makes us stress that you should keep a keen eye out for these veins if other close relatives suffer from them.

You are carrying excess weight.

Excess weight gain can also contribute to both varicose and spider veins. The additional fat cells in your body contribute to the pressure already placed on your veins. 

You’re inactive, standing, or sitting for long periods of time during the day.

When you stand for long periods of time, gravity pulls the blood in your body downward. The blood can pool in your legs, causing pressure in your veins.

Conversely, sitting for long periods of time can have the same effect. If your muscles aren’t activated, they can’t help circulate the blood throughout your legs. Again, the blood pools and creates pressure.

You’re pregnant.

Two things increase the chances of varicose veins when you’re pregnant: your hormones (specifically estrogen and progesterone) fluctuate, and your body begins shifting and stretching. Both can cause veins to stretch and contort as well.

The good news is that most women’s bodies return to their pre-pregnancy states after the birth of the baby.

You’re menopausal or perimenopausal.

Yes, just like pregnancy hormones, menopausal and premenopausal hormones can make these veins more likely to appear. This can also happen when you take hormones to ease other symptoms of menopause. 

At this point, you’re probably wondering if there isn’t a time when varicose veins might appear. 

We’ll talk more about prevention and treatment in a bit to help you rule out any other factors.

Why You’re More Likely to Get Varicose Veins During Menopause

During menopause, your hormones start fluctuating (just as they do during pregnancy). Increases and sometimes decreases of the hormones estrogen and progesterone can make your veins stretch.

All of these hormonal fluctuations mean that women are much more likely to get varicose veins than men. 

What’s Estrogen Got to Do With It?

Both estrogen and progesterone can affect your veins — and that includes both the hormones your body makes and external hormones, such as hormonal treatments like estradiol, commonly taken during menopause.

But just because you’re not nearing menopause doesn’t mean that you’re out of the woods, either. Hormonal birth control can also be blamed for purple, twisted veins.

Do They Hurt?

Most varicose veins do not (and should not) hurt. If you feel pain in such veins, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. Some sufferers claim their veins itch or hurt; others feel pain when standing or sitting for long periods of time. Many doctors report that patients who ignore varicose veins often start to feel pain in the affected areas.

Treatment and Prevention of Varicose Veins

The good news is that you can take steps to prevent varicose veins. And if you’ve already got them? They’re usually treatable. If you’re seeing these veins pop up during pregnancy, they should return to normal. 

How to Prevent Varicose Veins

The best way to prevent varicose veins over the course of your life is to moderate your health and the blood flow in your legs. 

The weight gain that attributes to varicose veins is generally visceral fat — the type that surrounds your organs and causes other health concerns. This type of fat isn’t related to how skinny you are, either. The term ‘skinny-fat’ refers to the weight that protrudes inside the body as opposed to outside. Though that doesn’t mean you can’t experience internal and external weight gain at the same time.

You can also monitor the circulation of blood in your legs. If you stand for long hours each day (as hairdressers, tollbooth operators, and factory workers often do), try to walk around on your breaks or elevate your feet in the evening to allow the blood flow to return to normal.

At-Home and Self Treatment

Once you have varicose veins or spider veins, there’s very little you can do at home to treat them. Though you can take preventative steps to ensure more veins aren’t affected. 

And if your veins are painful? You should seek treatment from your doctor.

Professional Varicose Vein Treatments

Luckily, there are a few treatments available for varicose veins, though you’ll need to see a doctor if you’re hoping to get them. Just some of the treatments include laser surgery; sclerotherapy, a saline injection; cyanoacrylate (glue) injections and radiofrequency therapy. Your doctor will recommend therapy, based on your veins and the severity of the swelling.

In some rare cases, varicose veins aren’t treatable. Doctors often recommend compression stockings (especially if you stand or sit for long periods of time) to stave off future varicose veins and help manage the ones you already have.

Have you dealt or are you dealing with varicose veins? What are you doing to manage or treat them? Let us know your story in the genneve community forums!

Alicia Butler

Alicia Butler is a professional journalist, writer and blogger. She's passionate about helping women and giving a voice to those who feel unheard. Her first job was in a library and still uses those time-tested research skills to get to flesh out facts in any story. She hails from New England, though she's currently living life as a nomad (the winters were just too brutal) and calls NYC home when she's not on the road.


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