You have your dad’s nose, your grandmother’s quick wit…and your mom’s varicose veins. Or do you? Can you really blame your mom for the purplish, enlarged veins in your legs and feet? Let’s look at vein disorders, what causes them and whether or not there is a heredity factor.
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are enlarged blue, red or flesh-colored veins that look like raised, twisted, rope-like cords on the legs. They are much more than a cosmetic issue for some 30 million men and women.
The Scoop on Vein Disorders
Vein disorders that lead to the appearance of unsightly, painful varicose veins can cause uncomfortable symptoms and impact your quality of life. And there is the cosmetic concern, too. Visible veins may lead you to avoid certain clothing or activities out of embarrassment.
Many of us want to know what we can do to avoid those dreaded bulging veins. While you can’t do much to alter your genetics (sorry), there are several factors that will lower your risk for developing varicose veins, particularly if your family history is working against you.
The Root Cause of Varicose Veins
Your veins have one-way valves to properly regulate blood flow back to the heart and lungs. When those valves are faulty, blood may leak backward and begin to collect or “pool” in the veins, causing varicose veins.
Over time, varicose veins can lead to chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), a more serious condition, in which it becomes increasingly harder for the leg veins to pump blood back to the heart.
While genes certainly play a role, other causes include obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, occupations with long periods of sitting or standing, a personal family history of blood clots, hormonal changes (such as pregnancy) as well as gender and age (women are much more likely to develop varicose veins).
So Can I Blame my Parents for My Varicose Veins?
There is definite compelling evidence that CVI and varicose veins have a heredity factor. If you have one parent with varicose veins, your risk of developing them goes up by 40 percent. If both your parents have them, your risk goes all the way up to 90 percent.
Despite these telling numbers, scientists aren’t exactly sure how the genetic component works. There is no specific gene related to vein conditions like CVI and varicose veins. Some think the genetic component may actually have to do with the strength of the vessels themselves. If your parent has veins that are more prone to fail over time, you may be more likely to have them as well.
Is There Anything I Can Do to Prevent Varicose Veins?
If you have one or more of the risk factors listed above, you may want to be more intentional about taking preventative steps to lower the chances of developing varicose veins.
Sedentary people, listen up. You can develop an exercise plan to get those calf muscles working to support your lower leg veins. Those of us who carry a few extra pounds can lose weight to relieve some of the strain on the vessels. If you spend much of your day on your feet, find and stick to some rest periods where you can sit with your legs elevated. If you work behind a desk, get up and walk every hour. You can also talk to your physician about wearing compression stockings during the day to maintain healthy blood flow.
If I Already Have Varicose Veins, How Can I Treat Them?
- Venefit Targeted Endovenous Therapy – an innovative treatment that uses radiofrequency ablation. During this minimally invasive procedure, Dr. Lam will insert a catheter through a tiny incision and maneuver it to the damaged area of the vein. Radiofrequency waves will heat, collapse and seal the vein, permanently blocking the blood flow and rerouting the blood flow to adjacent healthy veins. This technique offers faster recovery, with less discomfort, bruising and complications.
- Phlebectomy – a varicose vein removal procedure in which several small incisions are created in the skin through which the varicose vein is removed. In the majority of cases, stitches are not required. Phlebectomy is an outpatient procedure that can be performed in-office under light sedation with local anesthesia.
- High Ligation and Stripping of Varicose Veins – Vein ligation and stripping is a minor procedure used to remove a damaged vein as well as prevent complications from vein damage. An incision is made beneath the vein, a flexible device is threaded through the vein and into the incision, which is used to grasp and remove the vein.