Inside a Varicose Vein: A Look At What Really Goes Wrong

If you’re one of the nearly 80 million Americans (about one-fourth of the U.S. population) with varicose veins, chances are you may not know how or why they occurred. Largely considered a cosmetic issue, vein disease can also lead to more serious health problems like blood clots and other health concerns. Here’s a look at what actually happens when a vein fails and becomes a varicosity.

Healthy Veins Defy Gravity

In a healthy vein, blood is pumped, against gravity, up from the legs to the heart, where it is oxygenated and sent to the rest of the body through the arteries. Over time a person’s predisposition to vein disease and poor lifestyle choices can negatively impact this critical process.

Valuable Valves

Valves inside the veins instinctively open and close at precisely the right moment to assure that blood always flows towards the heart. These valves close between pumps to keep the blood from flowing back down the leg, then open again when pumping resumes.

Valves Fail

As we age, these critical valves may weaken and stop working. As the valves fail, the blood flows backward and pools in the vein. Some who are genetically predisposed to vein disease may be born with weak Vein valves. Being overweight and making poor diet and lifestyle choices could exacerbate valve problems.

Vein Walls Compromised

As the valves continue to fail and more blood flows backwards, vein walls weaken, causing bulges in a vein and the rope-like look seen in many varicose vein cases.


Most people with vein disease will notice these problems once they occur in veins that are close to the skin’s surface. In time, the surface veins can appear more pronounced and unsightly. It is important to note that this process can occur in deeper, larger veins not seen by the naked eye. Other vein disease symptoms include:

  • Leg cramps when resting
  • Heavy feeling in the legs or leg swelling
  • Itchiness around affected veins
  • Achy legs after long periods of standing

What Can You Do?

While there’s no cure for vein disease, certain lifestyle choices can help prevent existing veins from getting worse and delay others from occurring. Consider the following tips:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Wear compression stockings.
  • If you have a family history of vein disease, get a checkup.

For more information about the latest treatments for your varicose veins or to schedule a vein checkup, visit our website, call (480) 775 8460, or email the Morrison Vein Institute at

By Brian Sodoma, for Morrison Vein Institute


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