Varicose veins are caused by pressure from the blood in the veins, which is normally limited by valves every few inches in the vessels. With prolonged pressure from standing upright, hormonal changes, and weakening of the blood vessels, the valves break down, causing veins to grow larger and new vessels to form.
Normally, venous blood flows up the leg, working against gravity toward the heart. Blood is prevented from flowing backward by tiny, one-way valves in the veins. Venous insufficiency is an abnormality that is caused when blood flows backward down the leg through valves that become weak.
This causes veins to become overloaded, which can cause them to bulge. The additional blood flow weighs down the leg and creates heaviness and fatigue when standing for long periods of time.
Many people will notice varicose veins’ appearance or feel their symptoms, which can be swelling, itching, aching and cramps. Often, legs feel achier at night than they do during the day.
Varicose veins can range from smaller bluish-green veins to large worm- sized veins that seem to snake down the leg. Though larger veins tend to suggest significant disease, many times it’s the smaller veins that can display the start of, or current presence of, a deeper, underlying problem.
You should see a vein specialist even if you have subtle symptoms such as prolonged leg pain, itching and swelling. Some not-so-subtle symptoms include skin darkening, dryness, redness, and flakiness. Also, spontaneous bleeding after hot showers can be a sign of advanced venous disease and should prompt you to see a vein specialist.