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What Makes Varicose Veins Worse?


What Makes Varicose Veins Worse? Exploring Varicose Veins Risk Factors

Varicose veins, those swollen, twisted blood vessels visible just beneath the skin's surface, affect millions of people worldwide. In fact, it's estimated that up to 35% of adults in the United States alone suffer from this condition. While often considered a cosmetic issue, varicose veins can significantly impact an individual's quality of life, causing discomfort, pain, and even embarrassment. 

This is because these enlarged veins not only mar the appearance of legs but can also lead to aching, throbbing, and a feeling of heaviness. As the condition progresses, it may result in more serious complications, such as skin ulcers or blood clots. 

For these reasons, understanding the risk factors and knowing how to reduce varicose veins or stop varicose veins from getting worse becomes crucial, especially because certain habits and lifestyle choices can increase the risk and severity of this common vascular problem.


Body Weight 

When determining what causes varicose veins, body weight is one of the factors to consider. A person's body weight can play a significant role in developing varicose veins or in cases of varicose veins getting worse. 

These are the most common ways a person's body weight impacts varicose veins: 

  1. Increased pressure: Excess body weight puts additional pressure on the veins, especially in the legs. This increased pressure makes it harder for blood to flow efficiently back to the heart, causing it to pool in the veins.
  2. Weakened vein walls: The extra pressure from excess weight can weaken the walls of the veins over time. This weakening allows the veins to stretch and become varicose.
  3. Impaired circulation: Obesity often leads to a more sedentary lifestyle, which can result in poor circulation. Lack of movement reduces the effectiveness of the calf muscles in pumping blood back to the heart.
  4. Hormonal changes: Excess body fat can lead to hormonal imbalances, particularly in estrogen levels. Elevated estrogen can contribute to the weakening of vein walls.
  5. Inflammation: Obesity is associated with chronic low-grade inflammation in the body, which can damage blood vessels and contribute to vein problems.
  6. Increased blood volume: Obese individuals typically have a higher blood volume, which puts additional strain on the circulatory system, including the veins.
  7. Complications: Excess weight can exacerbate existing varicose veins, potentially leading to more severe symptoms or complications like skin ulcers or deep vein thrombosis.

Maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and regular exercise can help prevent the onset of varicose veins and mitigate their progression in those already affected.


Activity and Lifestyle 

A person's activity level and lifestyle can also significantly impact the development and progression of varicose veins. Here's an explanation of how these factors can cause or worsen the condition:

  • Sedentary lifestyle: Prolonged sitting or standing: Long periods of inactivity reduce blood circulation, causing blood to pool in the veins.
  • Lack of exercise: Without regular movement, calf muscles aren't engaged to help pump blood back to the heart.
  • Occupational factors: Jobs requiring long periods of standing (e.g., nurses, teachers, retail workers) increase pressure on leg veins. Desk jobs with prolonged sitting can also impair circulation.
  • Exercise habits: Lack of regular physical activity weakens vein walls and reduces overall circulation. On the other hand, activities like weightlifting or long-distance running may increase abdominal pressure, also potentially exacerbating varicose veins.
  • Clothing choices: Tight clothing, especially around the waist, groin, or legs, can restrict blood flow.
  • Diet and nutrition: Low-fiber diets may lead to constipation, increasing abdominal pressure, and strain on veins, and high-sodium diets can cause fluid retention, putting extra pressure on veins.
  • Smoking: Nicotine constricts blood vessels, impairing circulation and weakening vein walls.
  • Alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol intake can lead to dehydration and blood vessel dilation, potentially worsening varicose veins.
  • Sleep habits: Poor sleep patterns or deprivation can affect overall circulation and vein health.

When exploring how to stop varicose veins, individuals should aim to achieve a balanced lifestyle with regular exercise, proper nutrition, adequate hydration, and good sleep habits. 



When looking at what causes varicose veins, pregnancy can be another factor. The increased blood volume, hormonal changes, and pressure on the veins from the growing uterus can lead to varicose veins. Additionally, weight gain, changes in blood flow, genetic predisposition, multiple pregnancies, and constipation can be varicose veins risk factors. While varicose veins often improve after childbirth, they may not disappear completely. 

Therefore, to prevent vericose veins during pregnancy, women are often advised to exercise regularly, elevate their legs when resting, wear compression stockings, avoid prolonged sitting or standing, and maintain a healthy weight. Although uncomfortable, varicose veins during pregnancy are generally not harmful to the mother or baby. 


Smoking or Using Tobacco Products 

Smoking and using tobacco products can be another one of the varicose veins risk factors. This is because nicotine constricts blood vessels, weakens vein walls, reduces oxygen levels, increases blood pressure, impairs circulation, and accelerates aging of blood vessels. 

Fortunately, by quitting smoking or avoiding tobacco products, one's risk of developing varicose veins can be reduced, and they can prevent varicose veins they already have from worsening. 


Standing or Sitting for Extended Time

Extended periods of standing or sitting can lead to varicose veins. This happens because blood pools in the leg veins, causing increased pressure, reduced muscle action, weakened valves, slowed circulation, fluid retention, and decreased vein elasticity. 

To reduce this risk, take regular breaks, use compression stockings, elevate legs, exercise to promote circulation, and maintain good posture.


Gender, Age, and Genetics

A person's gender, age, and genetics can also be varicose veins risk factors and lead to the development of varicose veins, or lead to varicose veins getting worse. 


  • Women are more prone:
    • Women are 2-3 times more likely to develop varicose veins than men.
    • Hormonal factors, particularly estrogen, contribute to this increased risk.
  • Hormonal influences:
    • Pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause can all affect vein health due to hormonal changes.
    • Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy may also increase risk.
  • Anatomical differences:
    • Women's pelvic structure and hormonal factors can affect venous pressure.


  • Increased risk with aging:
    • The risk of developing varicose veins increases with age.
    • About 50% of people over 50 have some form of vein problem.
  • Cumulative effect:
    • Years of pressure on veins and natural wear and tear contribute to weakening vein walls and valves.
  • Decreased elasticity:
    • Aging reduces elasticity in vein walls, making them more prone to dilation.
  • Muscle loss:
    • Age-related muscle loss can reduce the efficiency of the calf muscle pump.


  • Family history:
    • Having a family member with varicose veins increases your risk by about 50%.
    • If both parents have varicose veins, the risk is even higher.
  • Inherited factors:
    • Genetic factors can influence vein wall strength, valve function, and overall circulatory health.
  • Congenital vein abnormalities:
    • Some people are born with weakened vein walls or valves, predisposing them to varicose veins.
  • Genetic syndromes:
    • Certain genetic disorders affecting connective tissue can increase the risk of vein problems.

One important thing to note is that while these factors increase risk, they don't guarantee the development of varicose veins. Lifestyle choices and preventive measures can still significantly manage vein health, regardless of these predisposing factors.


How to Stop or Prevent Varicose Veins: Varicose Vein Treatment Options

While varicose veins can't always be eliminated entirely, several treatment options are available to reduce their appearance and alleviate symptoms. Here's a list of non-surgical and surgical varicose vein treatment and prevention options.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Compression stockings
  • Sclerotherapy
  • Foam sclerotherapy
  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • Endovenous laser treatment (EVLT)
  • Medications

Surgical Treatment Options

  • Ambulatory phlebectomy
  • Ligation and stripping
  • Endoscopic vein surgery
  • Transilluminated powered phlebectomy
  • Vein bypass
  • Laser surgery
  • Catheter-assisted procedures


Say Goodbye to Painful and Unsightly Varicose Veins: Find a Cardiovascular Specialist Near Me Today

Our team of distinguished cardiovascular specialists make it their priority to ensure each patient's health concerns are handled with personalized care and attention.

If you or someone you know is ready to say goodbye to unsightly varicose veins, request an appointment with the Cardiovascular Center of Florida today. We'll support you on your path to renewed health and confidence.