Varicose veins are large, bulging, twisted veins that are usually found in the legs and feet but may occur elsewhere on the body, such as the hands. In many cases, the development of varicose veins is merely an inconvenient, unsightly sign of aging, however varicose veins can become painful and may denote a more serious underlying circulation problem.
As we age, valves in the veins that keep blood flow back to the heart one-directional weaken, causing blood to backflow and pool in the lower extremities. This results in increased pressure in the legs and may lead to development of varicose veins and smaller, flatter spider veins.
Your genes may put you at higher risk for developing varicose veins, as heredity is a major factor in determining how aging will affect circulation. Other risk factors include, pregnancy, tendency to stand or cross the legs for extended periods of time, hormonal changes and weight gain or obesity.
Because hormonal changes can increase the likelihood of developing varicose veins, women are more likely than men to have varicose veins as a result of normal hormone changes associated with pregnancy, menstruation and menopause, as well as using hormonal birth control methods.