Cause and Risk Factors

The following factors may put one at increased risk of developing spider veins or varicose veins:

  • Genetics: Did your mother and grandmother have huge varicose veins? Do all of your siblings? Then there is a fairly good chance that you also may develop varicose veins. Not all cases are genetic, of course, but the predisposition to develop varicose veins does run in families.
  • Age: As we get older, the elasticity in our vein walls decreases, increasing the possibility that valves will fail and varicose veins will develop.
  • Gender: Females are much more likely to develop spider or varicose veins (although 25% of cases occur in males). Some research has indicated increased levels of female hormones may cause relaxation of vein walls (and possible failure).
  • Pregnancy: The enlarged uterus can cause increased pressure on all veins. Combined with elevated hormone levels, many women get varicose veins for the first time while pregnant (or shortly thereafter). These veins usually get worse with subsequent pregnancies, and may improve somewhat after childbirth.
  • Lifestyle: People whose occupations require them to stand or sit for long periods of time (e.g. waitresses, hairdressers) are statistically more likely to develop varicose veins than those who do not have this type of job.
  • Obesity: Increased or excessive weight increases the risk for varicose veins and venous insufficiency. This may be because of increased pressure on the venous system in obese individuals, or because of the disruption of the geometry of the valves in the tissues. Often losing weight helps alleviate the symptoms of venous insufficiency in obese patients.
  • Injury: Trauma may injure veins and cause valves to fail, leading to symptoms of venous insufficiency. Trauma could mean anything from a broken leg as a teenager, to knee or hip surgery, to a blunt injury which never caused broken bones . It is important to share any history of trauma with your physician.

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