Progesterone and Varicose Veins
Varicose veins can affect both men and women, but they are much more common among the female set. One reason might be the link between vein damage and the hormones. Progesterone, in particular, appears to affect vein health and may be a factor in the development of varicose veins.
The Delicate Balance
Progesterone, estrogen and testosterone are all present in both the male and female body. However, men tend to have much higher levels of testosterone, while women have higher levels of progesterone and estrogen. All of these hormones must maintain a healthy balance to keep the body in its healthiest state. When imbalances occur, it can lead to a host of physical problems, including the appearance of varicose veins.
The Pregnancy Factor
Pregnancy is a time in a woman’s life when hormones begin to fluctuate considerably. This coupled, with changes to the vascular system and increased pressure from the expanding uterus can all contribute to the appearance of spider and varicose veins. However, progesterone may be a bigger factor in the formation of visible veins than first thought.
In 2009, Croatian researchers found that women with higher levels of progesterone during pregnancy had a higher incidence of varicose veins than those with lower progesterone levels. The researchers in this study concluded that pregnancy alone was not the sole risk factor for varicose veins, but the levels of progesterone that occurred during pregnancy that may contribute to the swollen vessels.
Sensitivity to Progesterone
A French study found that the great saphenous veins, those veins in the legs that often become varicose, are more sensitive to progesterone levels than they are to estrogen. Specifically, researchers looked at the receptors for the two hormones in these veins. They found that while 90 percent of the samples of the saphenous veins they examined had receptors for progesterone, 83 percent had few or no receptors for estrogen.
This study indicates that progesterone levels will have a greater impact on the development of varicose veins than even estrogen. It appears progesterone may play a role in the weakening of vessel walls, which could lead to varicosity. Fluctuating levels may also lead to damage of the tiny valves inside the veins that are responsible for keeping blood flowing in a single direction. When these valves become damaged, blood can reflux back into the vessel to cause swelling and varicosity.
The Problem with Menopause
During menopause, estrogen and progesterone levels both drop, causing menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, depression and loss of bone density. Varicose vein risk also increases during this time, which may also be due to the changes in hormone levels. This would also explain why many more women than men develop the swollen vessels during the middle and later years of life.
Hormone levels are not the only risk factor for varicose veins. Other factors include a family history and occupations that involve long periods of sitting and standing. Weight gain, a sedentary lifestyle and smoking can also increase the likelihood you will develop a few of these visible veins at some point during your life.
While you can’t always control the factors that increase your risk for varicose veins, there are steps you can take to eliminate visible veins that have already appeared. At Advanced Varicose Vein Treatments of Manhattan, we offer a variety of minimally-invasive treatments to eradicate swollen veins and their uncomfortable physical symptoms. To learn more, contact our office today at 212-204-6501.