When it comes to risk factors, we've all heard about the things we should stay away from to maintain our health and ward off certain health conditions. Some risk factors are intuitive, and some are so often talked about from the television to the doctor's office that we recognize them immediately. But for people concerned about varicose veins, risk factors are often unfamiliar. Without a complete understanding of varicose veins and how they form, the risk factors can be hard to understand. Here are 4 common risk factors for varicose veins we see at The Vein Institute:
- Genetics ---Genetics play a huge role in so many factors of our lives, from our hair color to our cancer risk, and varicose veins are no exception. Many people recognize this when saying varicose vein are something they remember their grandmother having, and now they have them too! Some research has found that if both of your parents have vein problems, there is 90% chance you will as well. If one parent has them, women have a 62% chance and men have a 25% chance. Some studies suggest the chances drop to 20% if neither parent has varicose veins.
- Pregnancy ---Mothers are often left with an array of physical reminders of bringing their baby into the world, including varicose veins. In fact, many of our patients at The Vein Institute tell us their vein problems are the same age as their oldest child. Our leg veins work by carrying blood upward, against gravity. The increased abdominal and pelvic pressure the baby brings makes the job harder, ultimately causing the veins to weaken and fail. Hormonal changes during pregnancy play an even larger role. The hormone progesterone weakens the vein walls and allows them to bulge more easily. Increased blood volume during pregnancy further escalates the occurrence.
- Occupation & Lifestyle ---As we mentioned, veins have to work against gravity. The longer you're on your feet, the harder your veins have to work. Wondering if your job is common among those with varicose veins? Check out our post on the most common professions that put you at risk for varicose veins. Your extracurricular activities play a role, too. Anything from bodybuilding with heavy weights to paddle boarding could increase vein pressure and time standing.
- Prior Surgery or Trauma ---The fight against gravity is won by valves inside the veins, which act as one-way doors allowing blood to flow up toward our heart but not back down toward our feet. Problems can arise when for some reason, these valves are disrupted. Veins and valves can be damaged or cut during leg surgery. Even a swift hit to the thigh with a baseball can be enough to allow the backflow of blood. Unfortunately, our veins and valves can't repair themselves, so varicose veins start to develop after the damage is done.
If you've identified with any of these common risk factors, click here to see if you also have symptoms of varicose veins.