Statistics such as this one — up to 35% of people in the United States get varicose veins — are certainly eye-opening. There are a variety of reasons why more than one-third of our population develops these ropey, bulging veins, many of which are beyond our control.
To shed some light on varicose veins, the team here at Jacksonville Vein Specialists, under the expert direction of Dr. Mark A. Matey, takes a closer look at some of the more common culprits behind this common vascular issue.
Here, we explore the most common risk factors for varicose veins and what your options are should they develop.
What’s behind those varicose veins
Before we get into risk factors for varicose veins, let’s quickly review how this venous issue develops. Varicose veins occur when the veins in your legs aren’t pushing blood back up to your heart efficiently due to malfunctioning valves, and this situation allows blood to pool. When blood spills backward, it can engorge a vein and send it toward the surface of your skin.
The good news is that varicose veins occur in the superficial veins in your legs, which are only responsible for 10% of the blood circulation back up to your heart (veins deeper in your legs do most of the heavy lifting).
This means that varicose veins aren’t especially serious, medically speaking, and pose mostly cosmetic concerns. That said, varicose veins can become problematic and lead to discomfort and, in extreme cases, venous ulcers.
Most common risk factors for varicose veins
As we discussed, varicose veins are incredibly common, and there are several primary culprits behind the issue, including:
Varicose veins affect women far more than men — by two to one. There are two primary drivers behind this gender difference. First, pregnant women are more susceptible to varicose veins because of the additional blood volume that circulates during pregnancy. Second, estrogen hormones play a role in your vascular health. When these hormones fluctuate, it can lead to weakened blood vessels.
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI)
To keep the blood flowing back up to your heart, the veins in your legs feature one-way valves that shut off as blood passes through. With CVI, these valves weaken, allowing blood to spill backward. About 6-7 million people in the US have CVI.
As you get older, the blood vessels in your legs can weaken and become stiffer, leaving them more vulnerable to conditions like varicose veins. Not to mention, the muscles in your lower legs — your calf muscles — can also weaken with age and these muscles play a role in encouraging good circulation.
Carrying extra weight
People who are overweight or have obesity are more prone to varicose veins.
Unfortunately, most of the risk factors for varicose veins are conditions over which you have very little control. Still, there are ways to temper these risks and avoid varicose veins, starting with maintaining an active lifestyle and keeping your weight within healthy ranges. You can also try elevating your legs whenever possible and wearing compression stockings.
If varicose veins develop in your legs despite your best efforts, we can treat them with quick-and-easy outpatient procedures, including sclerotherapy and endovenous ablation, that we perform in our office.
For expert management of your varicose veins, please contact either of our two Jacksonville, Florida, offices at 904-423-1925 or book an appointment online.