What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are twisted and enlarged veins.

Varicose veins also known as varicoses, are medical conditions in which superficial veins become enlarged and twisted. These veins typically develop in the legs, just under the skin. 

 The veins in the leg are mostly affected because they are not too close to the heart.

 Women are more likely to have varicose than men.

Causes of varicose vein

Research proved that varicose veins have no specific cause but can be linked to certain conditions, such as;

  • Menopause
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Lifestyle, such as the nature of the job, standing too much
  • Heredity.

How do varicose veins occur?

Veins are designed in such a way that blood can only flow in only one direction because it has a one-way valve. 

If the walls of the vein become elongated and relaxed, valves are likely to get weaker thereby allowing blood to flow backwards and move in the opposite direction. 

Once the blood gets stored up in the veins, the veins become enlarged and twisted and it appears under the skin.

Pregnancy and varicose vein.

Varicose veins are most common during pregnancy and mostly harmless. It is a result of the pregnancy subjecting the abdomen to pressure.

During pregnancy, a lot of changes happen in the body, the release of hormones, changes in body size and others.  The body produces so much blood during pregnancy to support the female body and aid the growth of the foetus.

However, it puts pressure on the blood vessels thereby getting the vessels weaker and allowing the flow of blood in the opposite direction.

It is more evident on the legs due to the fight against gravity to push the blood back to the pumping site -the heart.

The pressure on the inferior vena cava- (the vein that carries blood from the legs and feet to the heart) by the uterus leads to varicose veins during pregnancy.

Signs and symptoms of varicose veins

  • Aching legs 
  • The heaviness of the leg
  • Swollen ankle
  • Venous eczema -the affected skin is red, dry and itchy
  • Leg cramp
  • Spider vein- Spider veins are small, twisted blood vessels that are visible through the skin.

Image depicting the difference between spider veins and varicose veins

How to prevent and manage varicose veins during pregnancy

Varicose veins can be genetic and you can not prevent it occurs during pregnancy, there are ways that you can prevent or control varicose veins.

Preventive measures are a good form of treatment and even cheaper than curative measures.

The following are ways in which varicose veins can be prevented or controlled during pregnancy;

  • Drink plenty of water to prevent constipation. Water is very important to the body and it is therapeutic.
  • Avoid sitting or standing in the same position for long periods. Alternate your sitting and standing positions.
  • Consume foods that are rich in fibre.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothes. Wear clothes that support pregnancy -maternity gowns
  • Wearing lower heels is better during pregnancy as it aids circulation and balancing of the legs.
  • Get regular exercise that supports a pregnancy.
  • Wear maternity support socks. Make sure they are not too tight.
  • Avoid crossing your legs while sitting.
  • Raise your legs periodically to improve circulation.
  • Sleep on your left side. This will help relieve pressure on the inferior vena cava.
  • Reduce sodium intake to minimize swelling of the veins. Avoid the intake of salty food.
  • Manage your weight. Be mindful of your diet and speak to a dietitian for better information.

Some pregnant women see varicose veins as a cause of concern or something to get worried about. 

There have been numerous questions about the dangers of varicose veins.

Well, Varicose veins are very common during pregnancy and are not harmful to most people.

Although, research has it that they can be itchy, uncomfortable and aesthetically upsetting. Dangerous occurrences can happen but they are rare.

As a pregnant woman, if you notice certain conditions, such as

  • Blood clots
  • Bleeding close to the skin
  • Ulcers on the skin near the varicose vein

You need to call the attention of your doctor. See the doctor if you’re concerned about your veins or if the discomfort is too much. Varicose veins during pregnancy may improve on their own.

In conclusion, Varicose veins are not a source of concern. You can always discuss it with your doctor if you are not comfortable with it. 



“Varicose veins and spider veins”. Women health.gov

Picture credit


SteppedupNurse Academy health writers write for blogs and health organisations. Reach out to us at steppedupnurse@gmail.com for your health content needs

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