Top Varicose Veins Risk Factors
Updated: May 10
Varicose veins are a common condition that affects people of all ages and backgrounds. Unlike spider veins, which tend to be relatively harmless, varicose veins can be accompanied by a number of painful symptoms. For this reason, amongst others, many people choose to seek out varicose vein treatment.
Vascular surgeon Dr Adrian Ling has been providing high-quality vascular care to patients across Melbourne for many years. His extensive experience treating common and complex vascular conditions, including varicose veins, makes the process of diagnosing and recommending tailored treatment options easy and straightforward.
All patients should know that there are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of you developing varicose veins. While some are unavoidable, empowering yourself with this knowledge can help make positive lifestyle changes to improve your vascular health.
While varicose veins can affect people of any age, the older you are, the greater the likelihood that you will be afflicted.
Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins that derive from faulty valves. The purpose of the vein is to carry material in one direction only — to the heart. Valves are meant to prevent blood from travelling backwards. However, as we get older, valves, like any part of the body, tend to weaken and degrade. The loss of power can cause blood to pool in the vein, causing veins to throb, twist, and expand.
Generally speaking, women are more likely to develop varicose veins than men due to the presence of certain hormones in the blood.
Women produce two hormones that play a leading role in the reproductive system: oestrogen and progesterone. Progesterone, in particular, can cause vein walls to relax, making it more difficult for muscles to pump blood back to the heart.
Varicose veins are also a common side-effect of pregnancy. This is again due to the production of certain hormones, alongside increased blood volume that occurs as the baby grows. Many women find that the symptoms and severity of varicose veins naturally improve following birth. However, if you have any concerns or are suffering from painful symptoms, it’s best to speak to a vascular surgeon.
Being obese puts you at risk of developing a number of different health conditions, including varicose veins. Carrying excess weight places increased pressure on many body systems, including the cardiovascular system. This pressure tends to weaken veins and valves, allowing blood to pool and veins to expand.
A lack of exercise (often associated with obesity) can also slow the cardiovascular system, preventing blood from moving as quickly as it should and putting strain on vein walls.
Many different medications can impact your vascular health. Before prescribing any type of medication, your doctor should talk you through the potential side effects so that you are aware of what signs and symptoms to look out for.
In the case of varicose veins, oral contraceptive pills are known to be a potential risk factor. Medication that is prescribed to menopausal women as part of hormone replacement therapy can also have a negative effect on your vascular health.
While some risk factors can be mitigated through lifestyle changes, others are harder to avoid. If you have a family history of varicose veins, the likelihood that you too will be affected is considerably heightened.
Understanding this can help you address the issue in a proactive manner by enjoying a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise.
While weakened valves and vein walls play a part in the development of varicose veins, a slow circulatory system can also be a contributing factor.
Many occupations require employees to sit or stand still for long periods of time. This reduces blood flow in the body, increasing the likelihood that over time, blood will pool in the veins. If you know that your occupation is deemed at-risk, or you find yourself suffering from cramps and sore legs at the end of the day, consider ways that you might increase blood flow through short bouts of movement away from your desk.
Suffering a traumatic injury to your skin can affect the functionality of your veins. If you are involved in any type of accident, it’s a good idea to check what effect your injuries might have on your vascular health.