What Causes Varicose Veins?

What Causes Varicose Veins?

Quick Answer: The pooling of blood in the veins causes a bulging, twisted and painful vein. Dr. Mackay is a board certified surgeon and expert at treating varicose veins.


About Veins

Veins are important structures of the circulatory system. The job of the vein is to move blood without oxygen away from the body tissues and back to the heart and lungs to remove carbon dioxide waste and pick up oxygen.  Veins are thin, collapsible structures. The blood in veins is largely moved by the contraction of the body muscles to push blood against gravity.

Veins also contain one-way valves that open with muscle contraction to allow blood to the pushed toward the heart and shut with muscle relaxation to prevent the backwards flow of blood in the vein. 

The valves can either become damage or dysfunctional.  In this case, they do not shut adequately which allows blood to move backwards, with gravity, in the vein. This backwards flow of blood causes the vein to stretch and more blood to sit within the vein. The further stretching pulls other valves apart, preventing them from closing completely, causing more blood to collect. As veins are elastic and thin-walled, once they are stretched for long periods of time with excess blood, they are unable to relax to their original size.  

To book an appointment with Dr. Mackay or ask a question, call 1-800-527-8346 or fill out an appointment request form.

About Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are twisted, swollen veins seen on the skin surface, usually in the legs.  These veins are formed by malfunctioning valves within the vein, leading to stretching and swelling of the veins.  There are several risks or medical problems that may lead to the development of varicose veins.


The following is a list of the most common problems that may cause varicose veins.

  • Family history:  There may be a genetic component for either the valves, veins, or both to be weaker and lead to the development of varicose veins.  Around half of those that have varicose veins, likely also have a family member with varicose veins.
  • Age:  The older the body gets, leads to  less functionality of the body tissue.
  • Female gender:  The hormonal changes present throughout the female cycle in puberty, pregnancy, menopause, and the use of hormonal contraceptives all can increase varicose veins.
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    Pregnancy:  Not only hormonal changes, but the fetus placing pressure on the vessels in the pelvis and legs, can also lead to varicose veins.
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    Weight:  Any excess weight on the body, such as being overweight or obese, collapses the vein and adds excess pressure in the vein ending in the vein structures not working adequately.
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    Static position:  As veins need muscle contraction to move the blood, constant sitting or standing puts pressure on the vein and, in addition, the veins must work harder to move blood, since no muscles are contracting to move the blood.  Both of these can lead to the vein weakening.
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    Prior vein trauma:  Having a prior blood clot, or other trauma to the veins in the leg,  weakens the vein and can lead to dysfunction of the valves.

All of these are common risks and causes for the development of varicose veins.  Having more than one risk can increase the chance for the development of varicose veins even further.  Even with a risk or medical condition listed, this still does not predict the development for varicose veins.

To book an appointment with Dr. Mackay or ask a question, call 1-800-527-8346 or fill out an appointment request form.