BlogWhat Role Do Genetics Play in Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins have a variety of contributing factors — including your genes and family history.
Varicose veins affect a significant portion of the population — anywhere between 20-30 percent of adults, according to researchers, with women developing the condition in higher numbers than men. These veins, which often appear twisted, swollen, and blue under the skin, are created when one-way valves in our blood vessels weaken or fail. This causes blood to pool and expand the vein. Left untreated, varicose veins can lead to ulcers, blood clots, or bleeding.
Varicose veins (and it’s underying condition – venous insufficiency) can be caused by a number of conditions and factors — including age, sex, and certain lifestyle habits — and recent research has found that genetics also play a significant role in how likely someone is to develop the condition. Here’s what you need to know.
Genetics and Varicose Veins
A number of studies over the years have demonstrated links between varicose veins and certain gene expressions — including those involved in how the vascular and skeletal systems develop — indicating that heredity is a strong factor for risk. Patients can inherit vascular issues or be born with vein abnormalities that can contribute to the onset of varicose veins, and in the cases when younger people show symptoms, it’s often considered to be an inherited condition.
Furthermore, one 2018 study used artificial intelligence to examine the genetic data of nearly half a million people for commonalities and patterns. In addition to confirming the association between varicose veins and age, weight, pregnancy, smoking habits, and sedentary lifestyle, researchers discovered a previously unknown association with a patient’s height. Greater height, according to one of the researchers who co-supervised the study, is likely “an underlying mechanism leading to varicose veins.”
What to Do If You’re at Risk for Varicose Veins
While varicose veins can’t be entirely prevented, there are a few steps you can take to reduce your risk, especially if you’re tall or have close family members who have also had the condition.
- Exercise. Your leg muscles help keep blood flowing back to the heart, so try to make sure you’re walking frequently and getting enough exercise each week to help promote proper circulation.
- Pay attention to your diet. Doing your best to eat healthier often proves beneficial for a wide range of health conditions. Limiting your salt intake, for instance, can help reduce swelling and water retention. Proper exercise and diet can also contribute to losing weight, which further reduces stress on at-risk veins.
- Wear compression stockings. Being on your feet most of the day over extended periods can contribute to vein stress. Fortunately, medium graduated-compression stockings, if worn daily, can help slow the onset or progression of varicose veins.
- Elevate your legs. When sitting for long periods of time, such as when watching a movie or sports game at home, elevate your legs. This reduces the pull of gravity on the blood in your legs.
- Consult your doctor. If you or your family is predisposed to venous insufficiency, it’s useful to know as soon as possible. Varicose veins can be treated or managed in a number of ways, including in-office outpatient treatments.
Keep Up with Your Vein Health
In addition to family history, varicose veins can be caused by a number of factors. Age is one significant contributor to their onset, as are jobs that require long periods of standing or sitting without movement, leg injuries, or a history of blood clots. If you think you’re at risk to develop varicose veins, contact your doctor to discuss preventative measures.
VEINatlanta is the leading vein center in the Atlanta area, and our team of double-certified surgeons — who specialize in highly effective, minimally invasive treatments — are ready and able to help you find relief. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.