Nearly 23% of US adults have varicose veins.
What makes some people more susceptible than others? For one, you might be more likely to get them if you’re female.
According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, varicose veins affect 22 million women and 11 million men between the ages of 40 to 80 years.
But being female is not the only risk factor.
Here, we dive into seven main risk factors for varicose veins.
1. Prolonged sitting or standing
People with professions that require them to sit or stand for long hours are at risk of developing varicose veins. This is because sitting or standing for long reduces venous return, which causes blood to accumulate in the leg veins. After that, the venous pressure rises and causes the vein to distend and twist. This may occur in the superficial or deep veins of the legs.
Individuals in these professions will benefit from taking breaks at work and receiving regular screening for varicose veins.
An unhealthy weight exerts pressure on the legs, which affects the veins. If the leg pressure continues, the venous pressure increases and causes the veins to distend.
Varicose veins in pregnancy often disappear post-delivery and are due to any damage to the valves or walls of the veins.
Varicose veins are present in pregnant women because of the compression of the large vein that drains blood from the lower limbs. The fetal head obstructs venous return, which leads to stagnation of blood flow and elevated venous pressure in the leg veins.
4. Advancing age
As you grow older, the valves in your veins may lose their function. When this happens, the one-way flow of blood to the heart fails, leading to the accumulation of blood in the leg veins. Gradually, this increases the venous pressure and causes the veins to twist and swell.
Also, physical inactivity common among elderly ones weakens the calf muscles in the leg. When these calf muscles contract, they help to improve blood flow in the leg veins. However, this capacity to pump blood reduces in older people because the calf muscle tone is low.
5. Genetic factors
Studies have shown that varicose veins are common among first-degree relatives. Inherited genes cause the production of weak smooth muscles in the walls of some veins.
These affected veins dilate, pool blood, and raise the venous pressure responsible for the swelling and twisting of veins. If you have a family history of varicose veins, there is a risk of developing one.
6. Hormonal therapy
Women take hormonal drugs for various purposes, such as contraception and to control distressing menopausal symptoms. However, these hormones may weaken the valves and increase their varicose veins risk. Women who take estrogen or progesterone in any form apart from pills are also at risk.
7. Chronic vein injury
History of blood clots, past vascular surgeries, and structural compression cause vein injury. Scar tissues form in veins when they are exposed to long-term damage. These scar tissues may grow and inhibit blood flow, which causes blood pooling and elevation of venous pressure.
Varicose vein symptoms
You may develop any of the following symptoms if you have varicose veins:
- Leg pains that worsen while walking and stop at rest.
- Unexplained leg heaviness
- Leg swelling
- Skin discoloration of affected areas
If you notice any of these symptoms, consult a vein specialist for expert clinical evaluation.
How are varicose veins diagnosed?
In addition to clinical history to ascertain risk factors, your vein specialist will examine your legs, looking out for small twisted and swollen veins together with signs of blood clots in the leg veins.
You may need a Doppler ultrasound scan of the leg for a thorough examination of your leg veins. This non-invasive imaging test accurately indicates if there are blood clots in your leg veins.
Are you at risk of varicose veins?
Your chances of developing varicose veins increases if you have multiple risk factors. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are essential in preventing the onset of complications.
At Virginia Vein Care, our team combines our years of clinical experience and evidence-based techniques to manage varicose veins.
Visit a location near you to treat your varicose veins.