Women are four times more likely than men to develop varicose veins in their lifetime, with up to 50% of women in the U.S. suffering from varicose veins. Despite both sexes being affected by many of the same risk factors, women tend to be more prone to developing these leg veins. Read on to learn what places women at a greater risk for varicose veins.
Women and varicose veins
You may be wondering what it is that puts women at such a high risk for varicose veins, and the answer to that is essentially hormones. Estrogen and progesterone play an enormous role in the lives of women, affecting physical development, menstrual cycles, and pregnancy.
Progesterone, which is produced in both sexes but at higher levels in women, is the main factor responsible for the notably higher rate at which women develop varicose veins. Higher levels of this hormone dilate and weaken veins. Since veins rely on one-way valves and leg muscles to prevent the backflow of blood, it does not take much to exhaust venous walls. That’s where hormonal changes come into the picture, relaxing vein walls and causing the build-up of blood. This results in the stretching and weakening of those walls, paving the way for varicose veins to form.
Throughout a woman’s pregnancy, her progesterone levels rise significantly. The more the baby grows, the more the blood flow throughout your body is increased. Consequently, your veins increase in size and the valves are no longer as effective as they once were. In addition, an enlarged abdomen brings more pressure to your legs, making it more difficult for blood to flow back up to the heart. The good news is that varicose veins usually disappear shortly after giving birth, but the bad news is that they will reappear with each pregnancy.
Menopause affects women as they age, causing estrogen and progesterone production to decline. This fluctuation in hormones can weaken veins, as can many of the hormone replacement therapies that are used to prevent osteoporosis and hot flashes.
How to prevent varicose veins
Your age, sex, and family history are out of your control, but there are actions you can take to prevent varicose veins from developing further such as:
- Avoid sitting or standing for an extended duration. Take breaks to stretch and move around.
- Wear compression stockings. Purchase at a pharmacy or visit a medical professional for a custom fitting to make sure your stockings are the right size for you.
- Elevate your legs several times throughout the day at a level above your heart.
- Exercise to improve circulation, even if that is simply walking.
- Maintain a healthy diet with foods that are rich in fiber.
Some individuals choose to have varicose veins removed for cosmetic reasons, while others seek relief of symptoms. Since varicose veins are no longer functional, getting rid of them does not cause any damage to the circulatory system as their job can be replaced by other healthier veins. Whatever your reasoning for treatment is, there are several vein removal options that you should discuss with a vein specialist to determine the best course of action for you.
If you or someone you know is interested in vein treatment, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!