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Risk or cure?

Q: What are the risk factors for getting varicose veins? Is this a curable condition?

A: There are numerous risk factors for varicose veins that can be inherited or can accumulate throughout life. The most important two are genetics and pregnancy. If one or both parents have varicose veins the likelihood of an offspring developing this condition is approximately 50%-90%. Pregnancy is also strongly associated with developing varicosities, and each additional pregnancy increases that risk. Other factors are important - varicose veins are more common in women and in people who have jobs or hobbies with prolonged standing or sitting. Notable lesser risks include advancing age, obesity, smoking, and history of prior varicose vein treatment or blood clots in the leg. Occasionally people get varicose veins without any obvious risk factors.

We are better than ever at diagnosing and treating varicose veins but it is impossible to erase inherited or accumulated risk factors. With this in mind we prefer to think in terms of managing, rather than curing, varicose veins. For most, a combination of treatment and prevention works best. Modern treatments are highly successful at treating or removing abnormal veins which alleviates discomfort and keeps veins from getting worse. Also important, especially in people with many risk factors, is regular use of compression stockings and exercise. So, even though there is no cure for varicose veins, a comprehensive management plan which includes both vein treatments and preventative measures helps maintain healthy legs throughout life.

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