Varicose veins are a common problem and while there is a tendency to associate the condition with women, one recent review found that an estimated 10-20% of men have varicose veins, with that number increasing at an alarming rate. Varicose veins can affect all people, regardless of their sex or gender, with the following factors increasing the risk of this condition:
- Genetics (family history)
- Older age
- Standing occupations
- Frequent heavy lifting
- History of deep vein thrombosis.
Men who spend most of their days on their feet have a much higher risk of developing symptoms of varicose veins. In one study, men had more than a three-fold increase in risk if they spent at least six hours a day standing or walking, while men whose jobs frequently involved heavy lifting had almost four times the risk of developing varicose veins.
Overall, the prevalence of varicose veins is, indeed, higher in women, with around 25-33% of women living with the condition. This is thought to be due in part to increased exposure to estrogen and changes that occur during pregnancy. It should come as little surprise then that hormonal disturbances in men have been linked to a higher risk of recurrent varicose veins.
In one study, over half (52%) of a group of men undergoing surgery for varicose veins who had a high ratio of estradiol (the most potent form of estrogen) to free testosterone developed recurrent varicose veins after 5 years, compared to just 32% of men undergoing similar surgery but who had no endocrine problems.
Why Treatment is Important
Women may be more inclined to undergo treatment of varicose veins for aesthetic reasons, but it is important to note that varicose veins are not just a cosmetic concern. Bulging veins can demonstrate chronic venous insufficiency and may lead to problematic bleeding, skin ulcers, skin discoloration and damage, and a heavy feeling in the legs that interferes with everyday activities.
In some cases, varicose veins in men may indicate systemic vascular problems that could increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Vascular diseases tend to affect men more frequently than women, which may be partly due to higher levels of smoking and alcohol consumption, both of which can damage blood vessels.
As such, it is important for men with varicose veins to seek the advice of a qualified and experienced vascular surgeon so as to understand their options for effective treatment of varicose veins and for a thorough assessment of all-round cardiovascular health.
Content supplied by Jose Calvo