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Risk Factors For Varicose Veins

Written by Dallas Vein Specialists on September 1, 2010
  • Heredity (a family history of varicose veins)
  • Pregnancy
  • Aging
  • Western dietary and bowel habits
  • Association with prostatic hypertrophy
  • Wearing girdles or tight-fitting clothing
  • Obesity
  • Occupations requiring prolonged standing
The discussion about the causes of and risk factors for the development of varicose veins involves the list above. I shall discuss each in some limited detail.
HEREDITY
A tendency for varicose vein development has been noted to be present in members of a family in several studies. The same is true of the development of spider veins (telangiectasia). Studies indicate a dominant trait inheritance pattern. If varicose veins are present in one identical twin (monozygotic pair) the chance of varicose veins occurring in the other identical twin is 75%.
PREGNANCY
There is an increased incidence of varicose veins in women who have been pregnant. Hormones of pregnancy have direct effects on the vein walls and the valves in the veins making both softer and more distensible. As the pregnancy advances the enlarging uterus exerts direct pressure on the pelvic veins, which in turn transmit the increased pressure to the veins of the leg. Varicose veins left untreated tend to increase with the number of pregnancies.
AGING
Varicose veins increase with age. Changes have been noted in the walls of the veins as individuals age, and these changes appear to relate to the increased distensibility of the veins of the legs.
WESTERN DIETARY AND BOWEL HABITS
High fiber diets promote a shorter transit time and more rapid evacuation of colon contents. Our Western diet is usually deficient in fiber and the result is a longer transit time, perhaps twice as long. This results in constipation, staining, and more time at toilet, which in turn causes prolonged increased intraabdominal pressure that is transmitted to the veins of the legs. (Our modern toilet seats have been linked to varicose veins.)
ASSOCIATION WITH PROSTATIC HYPERTROPHY
The development of an enlarged prostate gland, benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), commonly leads to obstruction of the normal flow of urine in men. The resulting straining to urinate causes increased intraabdominal pressure, which is transmitted to the veins of the legs.
WEARING GIRDLES OR TIGHT FITTING CLOTHING
Women who wear corsets have an increased incidence of varicose veins as compared to those who wear less tight garments. The pressure on the abdomen causes increased intraabdominal pressure, which leads to increased pressure in the veins of the legs.
OBESITY
A number of studies have shown an association between obesity and varicose veins. Inactivity, lack of exercise, and poor dietary practices may underlie this association.
OCCUPATIONS THAT REQUIRE PROLONGED STANDING
Individuals that have occupations that result in their having to stand without moving about for prolonged periods of time have an increased chance of developing varicose veins. Activity and exercise of the leg muscles promotes the emptying of the veins of the legs. When the muscles are inactive for long periods, the veins become over-distended and over-stretched.
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