Risk Factors for Development of Varicose Veins

Draining of blood from the upper body to the heart, such as, head and neck, to the heart, is mainly dependent on gravity, which is a force acting downward in the direction of blood flow. Draining of venous blood from the lower parts of the body, such as, both lower extremities and abdomen, to the heart, happens to be an issue, as this volume of blood has to travel up to reach the heart, against gravity. As gravity is a force acting downward, gravity opposes this flow of blood in the upward direction. To help the volume of blood travel up the lower limbs to the heart, veins in the lower limbs have cup –shaped valves, which act in only one direction, continuously pushing the blood up the lower parts of the body to the heart. Contraction of muscles in the lower limbs during ambulation and activity also help with pumping of blood in the veins, up the limbs, towards the heart. In senior individuals, owing to their age, the valves of the veins pushing the blood against gravity are poorly functional and consequently fail to push the blood, up the limbs to the heart. Also, sedentary lifestyle and reduced muscle tone in older individuals contribute to reduced force pumping blood in the upward direction and consequently result in distended veins and capillaries with increased accumulation of blood. These distended veins with flooded capillaries, mostly noted in lower extremities, are called varicose veins.

 Risk Factors for Development of Varicose Veins are listed below

Age

  1. With advancing age, the valves in the veins helping with unidirectional blood flow in the lower limbs, towards the heart, lose their ability to regulate the blood flow.
  2. Also, the veins lose their elasticity with age, allowing them to stretch beyond limits and accommodate increasing volume of venous blood, thus increasing the chances for formation of varicose veins.

Pregnancy

  1. Blood volume increases during pregnancy, to support the fetal demands.
  2. But, the pressure exerted by the pregnancy on the veins of the lower limbs, reduces blood return from the veins to the heart and contributes to increased retention of blood in the veins of lower limbs.
  3. This may lead to distention of the veins with blood and contribute to development of varicosities.

Standing for prolonged periods

  1. Individuals in occupations needing prolonged periods of standing are increasingly at risk for development of varicose veins.
  2. Prolonged standing offers significant effect of gravity, for blood volume in the veins of lower limbs to overcome, to be able to reach the heart.
  3. Over a period of time, the valves pushing the blood volume up along the veins to the heart, lose their ability to regulate the blood flow.
  4. This results in increased retention of blood in the veins and contribute to development of varicosities.

Obesity

  1. Morbid obesity with truncal fat exerts significant pressure on the veins of the lower limbs, reduces blood return from the veins to the heart and contributes to increased retention of blood in the veins of lower limbs.
  2. Also, increased fat deposition in lower limbs, can contribute poorly to the force driving blood up along the veins, against gravity.
  3. This may lead to increased distention of the veins with blood and contribute to development of varicosities.

Sedentary lifestyle

  • Contraction of muscles in the lower limbs during ambulation and activity is a significant factor helping with pumping of blood up along the veins of lower limbs, towards the heart.
  • Individuals with sedentary lifestyle and poor muscle tone have too less of this force, to drive the blood up against gravity.
  • This results in increased retention of blood in the veins and contribute to development of varicosities.

Miscellaneous

  • Other factors such as blood clots in the veins, any tumors of the abdomen, and recurrent episodes of inflammation in the veins, can contribute to obstruction of blood flow up along the veins.
  • This can result in increased retention of blood in the veins and contribute to development of varicosities.