There are very few disease processes that are as widespread or as common as varicose veins, which are reported to affect up to 1 in 4 adults at some stage in their lives. Although some people do seek treatments simply because of the unsightly cosmetic appearance of the veins; varicose veins can cause a multitude of symptoms, discomfort and problems if not treated effectively.
There are many common myths “old wives tales” concerning varicoses, including:
“The prevalence of varicose veins is greater in women than it is in men”
This myth is mainly the result of poor research methodology, where doctors have simply counted the number of people who come and see them, without looking at sufferers who have not attended for consultation. This meant that when research into the prevalence of varicose veins was carries out in 1990 women were perceived to suffer more often than men, as there is a tendency for women to be more health conscious in general and more willing to see their GP.
More recent research, done at the end of the 1990’s in Edinburgh, when people were stopped on the streets and the number of people with signs and symptoms were counted, showed that statistically there was no real difference between the number of men and the number of women suffering the comlaint. varius
“Pregnancy causes varicose veins”
This myth suggests that many women do not suffer symptoms before their pregnancy, but the veins developed during or as a result of their pregnancy.
The statistical information showing an equal prevalence between men and women suggests that this might be untrue, as if pregnancy did cause varicoses, then men should not have the same prevalence to the condition as women.
Additionally, if would make sense that, if pregnancy did cause varicoses, more women would be seen for varicose veins during their child bearing years, but this is not the case.
Research performed in Chester in the late 1990’s using duplex ultrasound shows that only women who have lost their valve function before getting pregnant go on to get varicoses after pregnancy.
Women increase their blood volume by 40% during pregnancy, and this, along with the hormones during pregnancy that allow the tissues to stretch, means that varicoses that were not visible before pregnancy are now apparent.
The one exception to this rule is Pelvic Congestion Syndrome and women who go on to have a normal vaginal delivery of their baby. In this group of 2% of women during pregnancy the abnormal veins that are apparent as vulval, vaginal or leg veins are due to a problem higher up in the pelvis, namely the ovarian veins, pelvic veins or iliac veins as the cause of the problem.