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Varicose veins. What's causing it?

Varicose veins. What's causing it?

Varicose veins

Approximately 75% of all  people have varicose veins. But what is the cause of these unsightly thickenings on your lower legs? In other words, are varicose veins preventable?

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are weakened and dilated veins. They often occur in the lower legs and can be recognized by the soft, bluish, winding thickenings on, for example, your leg. Varicose veins occur in 3 different degrees:

    Small varicose veins

You can recognize small varicose veins by those little blue tangle of veins on your legs. Other names for this are: birch twigs or blood spiders.

    Medium-sized varicose veins

 Medium-sized varicose veins can be a few millimetres thick and many centimetres long. In some cases there is also accumulation of fluid in the legs at this gradation.

    Large varicose veins

 These are often thick cables that can cause pain. In addition, with large varicose veins you can also suffer from a tired and heavy feeling in your legs and/or restless legs. If you suffer from large varicose veins, go to your doctor. The chance of complications is high.

Origin of varicose veins

Our veins carry the blood up to the heart. In the legs the veins have valves, which prevent the blood from flowing back due to gravity. When the valves don't close properly anymore, the blood can flow back. This increases the pressure on the wall of the veins, stretching them over time. This creates a varicose vein.

Who can get varicose veins?

There are a number of factors which increase the risk of getting varicose veins:


 This is the main cause of varicose veins. The moment one of your parents has varicose veins, then you have a 70% chance of getting varicose yourself.

    Long standing

 People who have to stand a lot and for a long time also have an increased risk. Think of the professional groups: nurses, hairdressers, teachers and shop staff.


    Your veins become less firm as you get older.


    More women than men have varicose veins.


    During pregnancy you can get varicose veins for different reasons. One is that due to a changed hormone level, the vessel walls can become slack. In addition, due to the growing uterus, the return of blood from your legs to your heart can be reduced. This increases the pressure on the veins. 


 If the patient is overweight, increased pressure in the abdomen can cause the blood to flow back less well from the legs to the heart. The pressure on the walls of the veins increases and this can cause a dilation of the veins.


 Thrombosis causes a blood clot. When the clot has disappeared, the valves usually disappear where the thrombosis was. As a result, the pressure on the valves underneath increases.

Possible complaints of varicose veins

Sometimes varicose veins do not give any symptoms at all. But when complaints arise, they may be:

Symptoms in beginning varicose veins:

    Heavy feeling in the legs.
    Tired legs (often also warm legs).
    A tight feeling in the legs.
    Calf cramp.
    Stabbing pain in the calves.
    Vibrations in the legs.

Symptoms in longer varicose veins:

    Moisture accumulation around the ankles.
    Skin rash.
    Red and flaky skin.

If varicose veins are recognised too late or not treated, a wound may develop which will not heal: an open leg.

What can you do yourself?

To prevent varicose veins or their extension, you can do the following yourself:

Move around a lot

By moving enough, you stimulate the blood circulation. In terms of sports, running, cycling and swimming are especially good. The leg muscles pull together well, so they massage the veins.

If you have a sedentary occupation, make sure that you get up and walk around every 20 minutes. If you have a standing job, sit down once in a while. Also tighten your calf muscles regularly.

Watch your weight

If you're overweight, try to lose weight. Excess weight means an extra strain on the blood vessels and a reduced functioning of the muscle pump function. 

Wear loose clothing

Avoid wearing pinched shoes, stockings and/or trousers. Wear clothing that allows sufficient freedom of movement. In addition, if you have a standing profession, wear compression stockings. As far as shoes are concerned, wear shoes with a low heel, not higher than 4 cm. High heels make the muscle pump work less well. When you are at home, it is advisable to walk barefoot.

Massage your legs

By massaging the legs, from the foot to your thigh, you increase the speed of the return of venous blushes.

Mind your diet

Eat varied and rich in vitamins: especially vitamin E and C, beta-carotene, selenium and zinc. These are antioxidants that capture free radicals and help protect healthy cells and tissues.   


Stop smoking. 
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