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What are varicose veins?

The first thing to learn is that the veins in the legs are responsible for transporting blood from the feet and legs, against gravity, back up to the heart.

When a person stands still blood begins to build up in the leg veins. And when that same person walks, the calf muscles pump the blood back up to the heart. Normal healthy veins do this job correctly. They have one way valves that let the blood flow back up to the heart and stop the blood flowing back to the feet with gravity. As blood journeys from the legs up to the heart it passes through many one way valves.

Varicose veins are a type of vein that have malfunctioning one way valves. The valves that normally stop blood flowing back down to the feet are leaky. Therefore, varicose veins suffer from “reflux” – blood flowing in the wrong direction down towards the feet through malfunctioning valves instead of flowing successfully up towards the heart. Reflux means reverse flow, or flow in a direction that is opposite to normal.

People with varicose veins have blood pooling in refluxing veins that causes these veins to become distended and enlarged. The veins therefore experience greater time at their maximum pressure. To compensate the varicose veins will grow longer. Because the person’s bones aren’t growing longer, the longer growing veins gather and and curl under the skin and appear tortuous.

Unfortunately the veins natural attempt to compensate for refluxing blood is not effective and the reflux will continue to worsen with time.

If you have any questions about varicose veins, or suspect you may have them, we welcome self referrals and would be happy to assess you in clinic. Refer yourself here.