What Causes Varicose Veins?

Most people see Varicose veins as those large ugly ropey veins that bulge above the skin surface. Most people are probably not aware that varicose veins are only one manifestation of a medical condition known as Varicose vein disease. This condition results from a progressive breakdown of the valves found within your veins. Your veins make up only one half of your systemic circulation. The arterial system transports blood from your heart to your extremities.

In contrast, your venous system enables your body to carry blood from those extremities back towards your heart. This return system that is your venous circulation is made possible by one-way valves within the lumen of every vein. These valves prevent blood from flowing back towards the extremities when a person is standing. If these valves were absent or dysfunctional as in the case of vein disease, blood would begin to flow backward with gravity, back towards the feet. The result is a pooling of blood down around the feet and ankles. When blood pools anywhere in the body, it gives rise to a buildup of pressure and congestion in that affected area. Over time, that pressure will start to break the vein down and eventually dilate the vein. The result is the formation of a “Varicose” vein, which in essence, is a “dilated” vein. 

Despite valvular dysfunction being the primary cause of Varicose vein disease, it is far from being the only risk factor that affects its development. These risk factors include:

  • Sex: Females are 3-4x more likely to develop this condition
  • Age: The presence of Varicose veins increases with age
  • Obesity: The added weight makes it more difficult for venous blood to return through the abdominal cavity. This promotes unnecessary pooling in the extremities giving rise to Varicose vein formation.
  • Pregnancy: As in the case of obesity, the presence of an intrauterine pregnancy will increase the resistance that the venous return in the extremities must overcome to return blood to the heart. This elevated resistance promotes varicose vein formation
  • Prolonged standing or sitting: Immobility of leg muscles, like prolonged standing or sitting, promotes venous pooling in the distal extremities resulting in an increased risk of varicose vein development.
  • Family history: Varicose vein disease is believed to be an inherited disorder. A history of varicose veins or spider veins in the family history increases a person’s risk of having some form of vein disease. How that person will manifest the trait will be unique to them. 


Varicose vein disease is a progressive disease. This means that a person who has vein disease will continue to develop more and more vein disease and, in turn, progressively worsening symptoms from that vein disease. Why do people develop symptoms? You must remember that varicose vein disease affects the veins within the body. Veins do one thing. They carry blood back to the heart. The venous circulation is no different than the arterial circulation. Anything that affects blood flow in the arterial circulation will result in symptoms. The same holds for the venous circulation. Anything that affects your venous circulation’s ability to return blood to the heart will result in symptoms.

The difference between the arterial circulation and the venous circulation is in the speed that symptoms develop. Arterial circulation problems can develop acutely (rapidly) or can be insidious in its development (as in people with circulation problems from diabetes). Venous issues are typically much slower in onset. This is why the vast majority of people don’t even know what vein symptoms are like. When asked to name vein symptoms, most people will say “spider veins” or “Varicose veins.” These are manifestations of vein disease and not symptoms. Vein disease symptoms are more in line with leg pain, swelling, itching, burning, and numbness. Some people can even have leg cramping/charley horses, and even ulcerations in more severe cases. This is why people who notice anything different about their legs, should have their legs veins evaluated for Varicose vein disease. Contact STL Vein and Cosmetics to request an appointment today. 

Treatment Options

Many varicose vein disease sufferers often feel that nothing can be done for their vein issues or feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about their legs. They start to hide their legs in long dresses or long pants. They change their daily routines so that they don’t have to walk or sit for prolonged periods because it makes their legs hurt or swell. You do not have to live like this. There are new and more advanced treatments now available for varicose vein disease sufferers. Treatment is not what your parents or grandparents had to endure when you were growing up. The goal in varicose vein treatment is to address the venous circulation problem that underlies all vein disease issues. Correcting your circulation issues not only makes your legs feel better, but they also make your legs look better. Everyone’s treatment is different because vein disease manifests differently in everyone. If you experience any of the symptoms we noted above, or your legs don’t feel the same, let the vein experts at STL Vein & Cosmetics help you find your legs again. Call our staff at 314.842.1441 today to set up your free consultation and learn what we can do for you and your legs.

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