Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that can be seen just under the surface of the skin, most commonly in the legs and feet. Although the medical condition is often dismissed as nothing more than a cosmetic concern, if left untreated it can cause moderate pain, lower one's quality of life and lead to more serious health complications like deep vein thrombosis or blood clots. More than 15 million people in Turkey are estimated to have varicose veins.
So, what causes varicose veins to form, and how can we avoid the condition? Dr. Faruk Cingöz from the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery at Memorial Kayseri Hospital shared his tips to help prevent varicose veins and explained who is most at risk.
According to Cingöz, there are five main factors leading to varicose veins:
90% of patients with varicose veins have a family history of the condition. Varicose veins also tend to pop up as we age.
Venous insufficiency and venous blood pressure are important factors that determine our predisposition to varicose veins. Veins have valves every 10-15 centimeters. The cusps of these valves close to prevent backward flow of blood. In a varicose vein, the cusps cannot close because the vein is abnormally widened due to damage to the valve or the walls of the veins.
Elevated blood pressure in the veins, arising from standing still and not moving for a long time, can cause burning, pain and swelling in the feet and accelerate the formation of such veins.
Varicose veins are four times more common in women than men. However, males tend to postpone seeing a doctor about treatment and even avoid going altogether, whereas women have a higher rate of early diagnosis and successful treatment rate as they act early because it can ruin the smooth appearance of skin.
Wearing high-heeled shoes for long periods time are not good for our calf muscles as it weakens them, therefore creating the perfect ground for varicose veins to occur.
Inactivity and excess weight, especially during pregnancy, can cause varicose veins in women. Sitting for prolonged periods of time or standing still can contribute to the formation of varicose veins.
Chronic constipation, smoking, birth control pills and hormone therapy are also thought to cause varicose veins.
Bonus: Stress, the root of all health evils
Recent studies have found that as much as 30% of varicose vein patients have experienced high levels of stress. Tension caused by daily stress often takes over the person and reduces their quality of life.
Cingöz also cautioned patients not to be late to go to the doctor or give up going as soon as the pain subsides. Late diagnosis and treatment can lead to other serious health problems over time, he added.