Factors that Actually Can Increase Your Risk for Varicose Veins
Not everyone gets varicose veins, and, in case you don’t know, varicose veins are swollen veins that lie just under your skin. A significant percentage of the population does suffer from this medical condition. But what are the factors that can increase your risk for developing venous insufficiency, which is the cause of varicose veins? Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center, the home of the best vascular doctors in Orlando, takes a look at venous insufficiency, the factors that make a person most at risk for it, and a few of the treatments to get rid of those ugly varicose veins.
Just What Is Venous Insufficiency?
Let’s start at the beginning: The human circulatory system transports blood to and from the heart. Arteries carry blood out to the body’s organs and limbs, and veins transport it back. On the return trip, some of the blood must flow upward through leg veins, so leg muscles contract as you walk, which puts pressure on the veins and assists in moving the blood upward. And that the blood continues its upward journey, and not go back down, the veins contain one-way valves. Venous insufficiency is a condition that occurs when the walls and/or the valves in a person’s leg veins are not working properly, creating a situation in which it is difficult for the blood to return from the legs to the heart. When this is a long-term rather than temporary problem, it is called chronic venous insufficiency, or CVI. As a result, CVI causes blood to “pool” or collect in these compromised veins; this pooling is also called stasis.
Venous insufficiency can cause both varicose veins and superficial veins. Varicose veins are swollen and raised and typically occur on the legs. Superficial (or spider) veins are less serious visible (but not raised) veins that sometimes occur on the leg or face.
Venous Insufficiency Factors
A number of factors may increase your risk for varicose veins. These include:
- Family History: If you have family members who have had varicose veins, then it’s more likely that you will, too. But even if both of your parents have or had varicose veins, it doesn’t automatically mean that you also will develop the condition. The genetic predisposition is for a flaw that allows the veins to stretch and create faulty valves, and this trait is what causes the varicose and superficial veins. This genetic trait occurs in up to 60 percent of Caucasians, as well as in Hispanics and Asians (but not as much in African Americans).
- Age: Increased age is another factor that can increase the risk of developing varicose and superficial veins. As our veins and their valves age, they start to not work as well, just like many other body parts. When the veins become less reliable, the valves begin to allow blood to flow backward.
- Gender: For a combination of reasons, women are more likely to develop varicose veins. One often-cited factor is the change in hormonal levels that occurs at various times in a woman’s life, such as during pregnancy, premenstruation, and menopause. This is because certain hormones cause the vein walls to not be as rigid and the levels of these hormones are increased. It is also important to note that if you participate in hormone replacement therapy or are taking birth control pills, this also may increase your risk of developing varicose veins. As a side note, remember that gender is not a deciding factor in whether you develop varicose or superficial veins. Men are not in the clear here and should regularly check for the condition.
- Pregnancy: Relating to the previous point, another factor that contributes to women developing varicose veins is carrying a child. During pregnancy, the baby increases the pressure on the legs and hormones contribute to varicose veins as well. The good news is that varicose veins caused by pregnancy tend to self-resolve within a year after giving birth.
- Being Overweight: Obesity increases the pressure on veins. We all know that carrying extra weight is unhealthy for a lot of reasons and this is one more. Interestingly, though, being in shape doesn’t mean you won’t develop varicose or superficial veins. While exercise, in general, is a tremendous way to keep your veins healthy and in top condition, certain exercises can increase your varicose vein risk. Weightlifting and activities that put great strain on the muscles and veins increase your risk, as do cycling and other sports with highly repetitive leg motions. While we’re not saying to avoid sports and be a couch potato (see our next point), it is important for people of all activity levels to be aware of their specific risk level for varicose veins.
- Lack of Movement: Simply put, blood doesn’t flow well if you’re in the same position for a long time. A sedentary lifestyle makes your veins work overtime to get blood back to the heart. With an active person, the movement of the legs helps return the blood and takes some of the burden off the veins.
And One Non-Factor
One thing that does not cause varicose veins? Crossing your legs. This common misconception continues to spread, even from otherwise reputable sources. You may have heard this fallacy before, possibly even from your own doctor. But the truth of the matter is that there is no scientific evidence to indicate that this is true. In fact, studies have shown that crossing one’s legs while seated reduces blood pooling and stagnation. If a medical professional insists that crossing your legs can cause varicose veins, feel free to have them contact Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center to discuss the topic with us.
Understanding Your Risks
The key point here is that we all need to be on the lookout for varicose veins as most of us can check off at least one of the factors listed above. If you identified one of more of these venous insufficiency factors, contact Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center at 407-545-3385 or 352-658-5547 today to talk with the top vascular doctors in Orlando there about your risks and, if necessary, treatment options.