If you’ve never heard of venous insufficiency, the first thing to know is that it’s the primary driver of varicose and spider veins in your legs. The second point about venous insufficiency is that it’s very common — up to 17% of men in the United States are affected and up to 40% of women.
If you want to know more about venous insufficiency and whether you’re at risk, Dr. Satjit Bhusri and our team of vascular experts at Upper East Side Cardiology’s Vein Institute outline eight of the more common risk factors here.
Like every other area of your body, your veins can weaken over time, so the older you are, the more prone you may be to venous insufficiency. More specifically, the veins in your legs feature one-way valves that help keep the blood flowing back up to your heart to pick up critical oxygen and nutrients.
In addition to the valves, the veins in your legs also rely on surrounding muscles to help with the task of pushing blood upward, and these muscles can weaken over time.
When the valves and muscles in your legs weaken, it can lead to varicose veins as the blood spills backward and engorges the vein.
Women are twice as likely as men to develop varicose and spider veins in their legs, which is largely attributable to hormone levels. Women’s reproductive hormones (namely progesterone) play a role in blood vessel health and, when these levels fluctuate, the walls of your veins can weaken.
Pregnancy is also a known risk factor for venous insufficiency, so we’re placing this under gender. When you’re pregnant, not only are your hormone levels fluctuating, there’s more pressure in the veins in your legs due to an enlarged uterus.
If you have close family members who have varicose veins, you may be more susceptible to venous insufficiency and its side effects.
If you have a blood clot deep in the veins of your leg, called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), your risks for developing chronic venous insufficiency are much higher. In fact, 30% of people with DVT will develop chronic venous insufficiency.
If you remain in one position for long periods of time, which includes sitting, standing, or lying down, these stationary positions exacerbate the flow of blood in your legs. As a result, your valves can weaken.
If you have obesity or you’re overweight, the extra pounds are forcing your entire cardiovascular system to work harder, which includes the veins in your legs. This extra workload can lead to weakening and malfunctioning in your valves.
The ingredients in cigarettes are very bad for your vascular health, as they cause your blood to thicken, which encourages clotting and plaque buildup, and also forces your blood vessels to work harder to circulate your blood.
Your cardiovascular system works best when you move around, which encourages your blood to flow freely and discourages blockages in your blood vessels. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you’re more at risk for developing venous insufficiency in your legs as your valves, veins, and surrounding muscles are weaker.
If you’d like to determine whether the veins in your legs are weakening or you’d like to treat the side effects (varicose veins) of existing venous insufficiency, please contact our New York City office, on the Upper East Side, for more information.