There are several factors that contribute to vein disease in adults. Knowing these risk factors can help you to better monitor your vein health.
Research has shown that aging is one of the leading risk factors for the development of vein disease. As people age, vein issues become more prevalent. Small problems that may have started years earlier often progress into larger ones. Additionally, a decrease in the body’s production of collagen causes veins to become less elastic and more likely to “leak,” especially superficial veins. This is why there’s an increase of varicose veins in the elderly population.
Heredity can also play a factor. Significant research with gene mapping shows there is a genetic component to venous disease. While research in this area continues, most specialists agree that if you have a family member with varicose veins, you may be more susceptible to venous issues yourself.
Venous disease, like many physical conditions, can be aggravated by lifestyle and occupational risks. For example, standing for long periods of time (with or without high heels) is a known risk factor. Research has shown that the more hours one stands, the more likely it is that a vein issue will develop. Likewise, sitting or lying in one position for too long, whether riding in a car, flying, or even sitting in front of the television, can increase your risk of developing a vein issue.
Patients in the hospital or on bed rest, for example, may experience a slowdown in blood flow that can lead to blood pooling in the extremities. One possible risk caused by prolonged immobility is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is a blood clot that forms in the deep vein system. Another risk is superficial thrombophlebitis, which is a blood clot that forms in the superficial system. Both types of clots can damage the valves and result in venous reflux or insufficiency.
Gender plays a prominent role in the development of varicose veins and other vein issues. Women are almost 2.5 times more likely to have vein disease than men. A woman has three “high risk” times in her life that men do not. First when she gets her period; during menarche, hormone surge is very common. Progesterone can act as a vasodilator—a hormone that opens or dilates blood vessels—causing veins to stretch significantly, sometimes to the point of damaging them.
In some cases, such as family history or ethnicity, it is impossible to eliminate risk factors for vein disease. However, some risk factors can be reduced. There are many treatment options today that are minimally invasive and highly successful, but education and prevention are the most important keys to vein health.