So what causes these leaky valves?
“In most cases there’s no single cause, but rather a combination of factors,” says Dr. Weiss. “We know that there’s a strong genetic component to having weak, leaky valves. That’s why varicose veins and other vein problems run in families.”
Hormones also play a large role, especially among females. This is the reason why such a large percentage of patient with vein problems are women. The incidence of varicose veins increases with puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Hormone based birth control, i.e. the pill, also contributes. Of all the above, pregnant women are very prone to vein disease.
In many ways pregnancy is the perfect setup for vein conditions. Three main factors are at play.
The first is a matter of blood volume. Since the body is supporting a developing fetus, much more blood is circulating during pregnancy. With more blood comes more pressure. The second is a matter of weight distribution. The fetus and fluid put lots of pressure on top of the pelvis. This works against the flow of blood back to the heart. The third factor is hormonal. During pregnancy women secrete a hormone which makes the vein walls more permeable. As fluid leaves the veins it can add to the amount of swelling already present.
Other main contributing factors are obesity and standing for long periods of time. In general, anything which puts more pressure on the leg veins can damage their valves. This translates directly into vein disease.