Varicose Veins: What They Are, Causes, and Prevention Tips

Updated on December 3, 2022

The presence of swollen, bulged, and twisted veins in your legs and feet are called varicose veins. It is a common problem in the United States, affecting approximately 23% of adults. Varicose veins are not considered a serious health problem, but their appearance is often unsightly. Most people who visit Upper East Side Cardiology for treatment do so for aesthetic purposes. However, sometimes varicose veins can cause bothersome symptoms like cramping and swelling, affecting your quality of life. Fortunately, mild varicose veins improve with simple remedies, including wearing compression stockings. Other treatments like sclerotherapy can help when conservative treatments don’t reduce your symptoms.

What causes varicose veins?

Varicose veins are often a result of weak or damaged valves. The arteries carry blood from your heart to your body, while veins return blood from the body to your heart. Veins in your legs must work against gravity to return blood to the heart. Your leg muscles are your biggest allies since their contractions act as pumps, helping blood to return to the heart. As blood flows toward the heart, tiny valves open and then close to prevent blood from flowing back. If these valves are damaged or weak, some blood flows back and pools in the veins, causing the vein to stretch, enlarge, and twist.

Tips to prevent varicose veins


Any physical exercise that works the muscles in your legs can help ensure your muscles work as they should. Remember, your leg muscles contract, allowing veins to work against gravity and return blood to the heart. Exercise helps strengthen your leg muscles and may prevent new varicose veins from forming. Besides preventing varicose veins, exercise is good for your general health; it is an effective way to lose extra weight and stay fit.

Avoid sitting or standing for long periods

Lack of movement inhibits proper blood circulation, meaning blood accumulates in your legs. If you have a sedentary lifestyle or work involves long hours of sitting or standing, take small breaks every 30 minutes to walk around. Walking allows your leg muscles to contract, helping blood to move back to your heart. You can do this at your workplace or home to improve blood circulation and prevent symptoms like swelling.

Lose extra weight

Obesity is one major risk factor for varicose veins, meaning losing weight can help lower your risk of this condition. When you are overweight, your body exerts extra pressure on the veins; this may damage the valves. Veins also have difficulty pushing blood to the heart when overweight; this might eventually result in varicose veins. Losing weight takes excess pressure off your veins and improves blood circulation. Weight loss also makes you physically fit and lowers your risk of severe health problems like hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnea.

Elevating your legs when sitting or lying down also helps prevent blood from pooling in your veins. You can use a pillow or stool to prop up your legs.

If varicose veins make you uncomfortable about your appearance, visit your doctor at Upper East Side Cardiology for treatment to get rid of those spiraling lines.  

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