Does genetics influence varicose veins?
Does genetics influence varicose veins? The short answer is “yes.” Having a family history of varicose veins is one of the biggest risk factors for developing them yourself. If, for instance, you’ve got one parent with varicose veins there’s about a 40% chance that you’ll be affected. If both of you parents have them your chances increase to approximately 80%.
The good news, however, is that genetics isn’t destiny. By making the right lifestyle choices it’s possible to dramatically lower these odds.
The hereditary connection.
As with many other conditions, genetics plays a large role in several types of vein disorders. Even so, the reasons why aren’t entirely clear and several genes appear to be involved. More research is necessary but it’s likely that the genes which influence vein wall formation play a large role. It’s also safe to say that mutations in the genes related to venous valves contribute as well. It’s also entirely possible for both sets of genes to be faulty simultaneously.
Most of what we know about our genetics comes from the human genome project—one of the largest scientific endeavors of the last century. Vast amounts of data were generated which geneticists are still deciphering to this day. In 2005, a hallmark study published in the journal Vascular Medicine detailed some of the genes which may be involved. Based on this research it was concluded that a single gene known as FOX C2 is probably the biggest contributor. This gene affects, among other things, how the internal and external vein walls are formed.
A proactive approach to prevention.
This isn’t to say that that genetics is the only factor at play, however. It’ll take some work, but with simple lifestyle choices it’s possible for many patients to avoid vein problems entirely.
Those with a family history of varicose veins can take the following steps:
- Eat a healthy diet. This plays a critical role in avoiding many chronic diseases, and varicose veins are no exception.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. Being overweight or obese puts added pressure on the large veins in the legs.
- Exercise regularly. This encourages healthy circulation. Exercises which work the calf muscles are particularly helpful.
- Avoid standing for long periods. If you’re regularly on your feet for hours on end it pays to take periodic breaks.
- Wear compression stockings. This is one of the single most effective methods of treating existing varicose veins. Doing so can also prevent others from forming.
- Limit alcohol consumption. It’s not clear why, but excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of vein disease.
You’ll notice that the above steps not only reduce the risk of developing vein disease but promote overall health as well. It’s also important to point out that genetics isn’t everything. By taking the proper steps even the strongest family history isn’t a guarantee that vein disease will occur.