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Family history risks

Q: I’m 24 and don’t have varicose veins but both my parents do. Am I at risk for varicose veins? Can I do anything to prevent them from forming?

A: Varicose veins are common and are often passed from parents to children. If one parent has varicose veins roughly 50% of their children are at risk for developing varicosities. If both parents have varicosities the risk increases to about 90%. Having an increased risk doesn’t mean that one is destined to develop a particular disease, but it is wise to know and consider strategies for prevention.

The most effective preventative measures for varicose veins are focused on promoting good circulation in the leg. Exercise is recommended – start with 30 minutes of walking or any other aerobic activity 5 days a week. Also important is wearing a properly fitted compression stocking. A graduated compression stocking helps blood flow in the leg and provides more support at the ankle where the venous pressures are typically higher. A stocking with pressures of 20-30mmHg is a good choice for regular daytime use and is especially beneficial when used during times of prolonged standing or sitting. If possible, it is also helpful to move or flex the lower legs or walk around a few minutes every hour.

Finally, if varicose veins begin to form consider getting an evaluation. In general, treatment is easier before the varicosities get large or numerous. Minimally invasive outpatient treatments are available to remove varicosities, alleviate leg discomfort, and reduce the risk of more veins forming.

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