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Varicose Veins Causes and Treatments

What Causes Varicose Veins

Odds are, if you're of the female persuasion, varicose veins will one day be a concern. The hormonal swings that occur from puberty to menopause --as well as changes brought on by birth control medications -- may make women more likely to develop varicose veins [source: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute].

Pregnancy also presents a prime time to develop varicose veins. As a growing baby puts pressure on the inferior vena cava, the large vein on the right side of the body, this translates into increased pressure on the leg veins. Plus, your body's blood volume doubles during pregnancy. This increased blood flow causes veins to work overtime while a simultaneous surge of progesterone relaxes vein walls [source: BabyCenter]. Being overweight can put an additional burden on the legs; increased weight makes it more difficult for veins to carry blood back to the heart and can result in enlarged veins [source: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute].

If your mother or your grandmother had noticeable veins, you probably will, too. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, about half of all people who develop varicose veins have a close relative with the condition.

But there are things you can do to prevent varicose veins. Staying in one position for an extended period of time -- like sitting at your desk with your legs crossed -- can put more wear and tear on the valves in your veins [source: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute]. That's why it's important to move frequently throughout the day or elevate your feet when possible. In addition, frequent exercise -- especially movements that focus on leg strength or stamina -- can improve circulation.

Paying attention to what you eat can help, too. A diet rich in fiber but low in salt can keep you from swelling and from being constipated -- two factors that can contribute to varicose veins [source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services]. If you're constipated, you'll end up straining to have a bowel movement and the increased pressure from your abdominal muscles will stretch the valves in your leg veins [source: McDougall].

If you're really determined to prevent varicose veins, you can wear compression hose. The veins in the legs have valves stationed at regular intervals that act as an escalator to usher blood back up to the lungs and heart. When you wear support stockings -- which fit snugly at the ankle and progressively loosen toward the waist -- the garment helps veins push blood against gravity. For best results, put on compression hose in the morning -- before you even get out of bed -- then wear them all day [source: BabyCenter]. They may not be comfy, but they're better than having varicose veins -- especially when it comes to bleeding varicose veins. Next, learn more about this and other varicose vein complications.