Varicose veins are most commonly associated with women or older individuals. While this is certainly true due to their prevalence during and after pregnancy, varicose veins can present themselves as early as the teen years. Recent studies show that men are just as likely to suffer from this medical condition.
Normal venous flow is of low pressure and resistance. As one moves through the day, the muscles in your legs pump or squeeze the venous flow up the leg. One way valves keep this flow from coming back down the leg as gravity is naturally at work. Failure of these valves causes a condition called venous insufficiency. Basically, one valve fails and thus the column of blood that it would hold increases the volume of blood in the segment below. This increases the pressure and diameter of the distal vein causing damage or leaking around that valve. This same process keeps repeating itself as long at the pressure is higher than what the vein can tolerate. The pressure and venous volume increases both distally and also laterally through branches of the diseased vein. Varicosities are visual evidence of this change in venous pressure or venous insufficiency. As people get older, the vein walls weaken, making varicose veins more likely to appear. The underlying condition can be present for years before the patient identifies that they have a problem.
The primary factor for whether or not a person will suffer from varicose veins is hereditary. One can easily question family members and find out if they may have a predisposition to varicosities. It is recommended that you also ask if they suffer from chronic leg swelling, restless leg syndrome or have skin color changes in the lower leg. You may have to ask direct questions as these symptoms go unnoticed or may have never been diagnosed in years past. Despite increased efforts to educate the community’s about venous insufficiency, many do not know that they have a medical problem. If you have a family history the chance
is very high, regardless of age, gender, or body type that you will develop venous insufficiency. Another risk factor is lifestyle, especially with jobs that involve extended sitting or standing. With the increase in computer and software development there has been a decrease in the activity level of youths. This inactivity causes increases weight gain and along with the extended sitting increases the likelihood of earlier development of venous disease. It’s not unheard of for teenagers to spend hours at a time sitting before a computer or gaming system.
So your child is very active and doesn’t play video games for hours, that doesn’t mean they have escaped the risk. Trauma can cause injury to the vein wall. Increases in athlete’s size and strength have caused an increase in injury to the knees and other joints. This is especially more common in contact sports like football. There is evidence of gymnast and cheerleaders getting varicose veins due to the joint injuries as well as extended amount of standing for the activity. Volleyball players put additional pressure on the small saphenous vein by wearing tight knee pads. It is not uncommon for travel teams to play in all day tournaments putting additional stress on the venous system. Track and distance runners pump large amounts of venous blood flow. The movement of blood alleviates a lot of the symptoms of venous insufficiency, however eventually the pressure will cause the veins to enlarge and lose their ability to perform. Vein flow is a lot like children in the fact that it always flows to the path of least resistance.
Thankfully there are steps you can do to protect your children. Create rules that prevent or encourage them from sitting for hours on end without movement. Recent advancements in athletic wear have made compression garments available for almost every sport. Graduated compression socks increase the flow of blood return and also provide external support to the vein wall, prevent muscle injury due to vibration and studies have shown are beneficial in the reduction of lactic acid post performance.