As people age, their risk for developing varicose veins increases. However, women are at high risk, even during their younger years. While approximately 3 percent of men develop varicose veins in their 30s, unfortunately 20 percent of women do. Find out why varicose veins tend to start earlier in women than men.
Pregnancy is one of the main reasons women develop varicose veins earlier than men. Multiple factors may play a role in developing varicose veins during pregnancy including hormonal, presence of the fetus and an enlarging uterus, compression of vascular structures and even just changes in weight and mobility. During the second and third trimester of pregnancy, the enlarged uterus can compress large veins in the abdomen and pelvis. This can lead to increased pressure within the veins, which is transmitted down into the leg veins. This results in damage to the many small valves within the veins, leading to varicose veins in the legs.
Some women even start to develop varicose veins in the their first trimester which is suspected to be related to hormonal changes due to pregnancy. Weight gain during pregnancy can also have an effect. Increased intra-abdominal fat can also lead to increased pressure in the lower extremity veins resulting in an environment conducive to the formation of varicose veins.
In most cases, the varicose veins and associated symptoms resolve soon after delivery. The varicose veins that developed are still present but are now under less pressure. With each consecutive pregnancy the size and severity of symptoms will usually increase. The risk of developing varicose veins due to pregnancy steadily increases with the number of pregnancies.
Both women and men have the hormone progesterone, but women normally have higher levels. Unfortunately, this hormone can make the walls of your blood vessels weak. When that happens, they expand, making it harder for the valves to do their job. With weak veins and valves, the blood will pool in your legs.
Certain factors can make your progesterone level increase. First, it can increase when you’re pregnant, which is another reason that pregnancy can cause varicose veins. Also, progesterone can increase if you have endometriosis or are undergoing fertility treatment. Additionally, hormone replacement therapy can cause a spike in your progesterone level, increasing your risk of developing varicose veins.
A National Health Interview Survey found that sedentary leisure-time behavior is more prevalent in women than men. When you sit for prolonged periods, your blood pools in the veins of your legs, increasing the pressure within the veins leading to weakening of the vessels and valves. Movement of blood within the veins of our legs is very dependent on muscle contractions of the legs. These muscle contractions squeeze our veins and push the blood out of the legs and towards the heart. With continued damage to the valves within our veins, there is less efficient movement of the blood out of the legs which eventually leads to worsening varicose veins and associated symptoms. Fortunately, you can avoid this problem by moving as much as possible. Even a short walk in the evening can help reduce progression and symptoms of varicose veins.
If you suffer from symptoms of varicose veins, visit Dr. Vinay Madan at the Center for Varicose Veins. Treatments take less than 30 minutes with no downtime and patients are able to return to work the same or next day. These minimally invasive treatments include radiofrequency ablation, endovenous laser ablation, VenaSeal and sclerotherapy. Call (203) 762-6365 for more information or book online to schedule a consultation.