Risk Factors for Varicose Veins

Lawrence J. Markovitz, MD, has served as the medical director of Virginia Vein Care since 2008. In that time, Lawrence J. Markovitz, MD, has focused on performing minimally invasive procedures to treat varicose veins and other vein conditions.

In a normally functioning leg vein, valves permit the flow of blood up toward the heart and close to prevent backward flow. When these valves cease to function or function abnormally, however, blood begins to pool in the leg and can cause the vein to twist or swell. Statistically, this occurs more often in older individuals, as age can weaken the vein walls and prevent valves from closing properly.

Pregnancy is also a risk factor for varicose veins, because it lessens blood flow from the legs to the pelvic region while increasing overall blood volume. When this occurs, an excess of blood in the legs can cause the veins to swell. Pregnancy hormones may also weaken the vein walls, as may the hormones of premenstruation and menopause. These factors may contribute to the significantly higher rate of varicose veins in women as compared to men.

Other risk factors for varicose veins include a family history of the condition and a congenital predisposition to valve malfunction. Those with a personal medical history of blood clots in the lower extremities may have a higher predisposition as well. Finally, obese patients and those who sit or stand for extended periods may also be at greater risk of developing varicose veins during their lifetimes.