Varicose veins occur when the veins aren’t able to properly carry blood against gravity. In most cases, they appear in the legs because the leg veins have to do the serious work of carrying blood from your lower extremities up to your heart and lungs.

If the valves inside the veins that open to when blood is pumped upward, and close to keep it from flowing downward, become damaged or weakened, blood flows back into the legs. It pools in the veins, causing the veins to darken and become swollen or “varicose.”

Patients commonly ask our Atlanta vein specialists what caused their varicose veins. There are a number of reasons why this can happen. Here are a few of the most common ones:varicose veins


As we get older, our bodies start to break down. That’s simply part of the aging process. This can include our veins, which lose elasticity, and the valves inside them, which can weaken.

Although most people who develop varicose veins do so in their 50s and later, it’s not unheard of for children to develop them. They occur in children because of veins and valves that are damaged or weakened, or because of a strong hereditary component.


Varicose veins are more common in women than men, in our earlier years. This is in part because during pregnancy, female hormones relax the walls of the veins. Women who use birth control pills or hormone replacement medications have a greater chance of developing varicose veins. Further, women undergo significant hormonal changes throughout their lives that are linked to their menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause. Once we are in our 50s, however, men and women are affected by varicose veins at about the same rate.


In addition to the hormonal changes occurring in her body, a pregnant woman’s uterus is expanding and putting increasing pressure on the inferior vena cava, which is the large vein on the right side of the body that carries blood upwards from the lower extremities. Pregnant women have an increase in blood circulating through the body to take care of the baby. All of these changes can result in varicose veins.


Like many medical conditions, the risk of varicose veins is greater if one or both parents had or has them. Scientists have linked the genetic propensity for varicose veins to an inherited gene mutation located in the 16th chromosome. That mutation is found in 25 to 30 percent of the population.

Lifestyle Factors

Besides the risk factors listed above for varicose veins, there are others that are somewhat, although not completely, within our control. These include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Standing or sitting for long periods
  • Not getting enough exercise

The good news is that if you have any of these risk factors, you can take steps to control the things you can. If you’re starting to get varicose veins, treating them sooner may mean your treatment will be less extensive. At VeinInnovations, we offer a range of minimally invasive varicose vein treatments. Call us or contact us online to schedule an appointment at one of our convenient Atlanta-area vein clinics and find out how we can help you.