There are a number of factors which can increase the risk of developing varicose veins which you should be aware of. Some you can influence but others you can’t. Here’s our list of the 12 risk factors for varicose veins.

The Top 13 Risk Factors For Varicose Veins


Veins are working hard all the time – they never stop pumping. It therefore makes perfect sense that, as we age, so do our veins. That means that the vein walls and the valves get weaker and work less efficiently. Hence – the older we are the more susceptible to varicose veins we are. The specific increase in risk tends to be from when we reach our 40s. Before that most veins stay healthy.

To give you an example it’s estimated that 41% of women over the age of 50 suffer from varicose veins to varying degrees and 42% of men over the age of 60.


Women are at greater risk than men. It is thought the reason for this to be hormone related. The female hormones have a tendency to relax the walls of the veins. Also, women are at risk from a greater number of other factors than men are as you will see below.



Family History

Whilst not fully understood, varicose veins appear to be an inherited genetic disorder. It’s actually estimated that almost half of all varicose vein sufferers come from a family with a history of the condition. Without going too in-depth or all scientific on you the gene responsible is autosomal. In other words it’s passed down the line to each generation but it takes certain factors to activate it.

If both parents suffer then you have a 90%+ chance of developing varicose veins yourself. This reduces to around 50% if only one parent is affected.

Medical Issues

Any history of venal damage or problems in the past will increase your risk of varicose veins. Things such as traumatic damage, blood clots or deep vein thrombosis may well have caused damage to walls or valves hence increasing risk.


Being pregnant results in an increased volume of blood. This is required to support the growing foetus. A common side effect to this increase in blood is enlarged veins in the legs which have to work harder to pump the blood back up to the heart. Basically, the blood is prone to pooling as the veins struggle to efficiently work.

The good news is that this side effect is often only temporary. The swelling reducing following birth.

Hormonal changes during pregnancy are also thought to play a part in increased risk of varicose veins.

Oral Birth Control Pills

We mentioned earlier that female hormones can increase the risk of varicose veins. Therefore taking birth control pills orally (or any other medication containing the female hormone for that matter) will increase the likelihood of varicose veins developing.

Hormonal Changes

As with pregnancy and birth control pills – any other hormonal changes will increase the risk of varicose veins. This could be caused by natural changes during puberty or the menopause. It could also be as a result of hormone replacement therapy.


Quite simply the more overweight we are the greater the pressure being put on the veins. It causes the valves to compress which, in turn, increases the pressure and puts a strain on the walls and valves causing them to weaken and not work effectively.

To give you an example – even moderately overweight women have a 50% increased risk of developing varicose veins. Also, women with a BMI of +30 are at a three time greater risk of varicose veins.

Sitting Or Standing For Long Periods Of Time

Long periods of non-movement will increase pressure in the legs. Any desk job or lifestyle which involves long periods of sitting or standing will therefore increase risk. Quite simply, the blood doesn’t flow well if you’re in the same position for long periods of time.

Tight Clothing

It’s pretty obvious that any tight clothing is going to squeeze the veins and constrict them. This, in turn, results in the veins being put under increased pressure and the valves to weaken. The occasional night out in tight trousers isn’t going to do any harm but wearing tight clothing (girdles etc) on a very regular basis is best avoided.


It’s a fact that high heeled shoes can impede muscle pump function. This can increase the pressue on the lower leg veins which, in turn, increases the risk of varicose veins.

Chronic Constipation

Constant straining will increase pressure on the veins and can damage them leaving them at greater risk of becoming varicose.

We’re talking chronic though – occasional constipation isn’t going to make any difference.

Sun Exposure

Exposure to the sun breaks down collagen and the tiny blood vessels just under the skin. This commonly results in spider veins. Whilst sun exposure won’t cause varicose veins its effects can cause any existing condition to worsen by dilating and enlarging resulting in distention.

Risk Factors For Varicose Veins

Do your bit and take care of the risk factors for varicose veins which you can influence. Watch your weight, stay active don’t over expose to the sun, keep active and watch what you wear!



Useful Links

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute