How tall you are might be a good indicator of risk for the gnarled, bulging varicose veins that can develop in the legs and ankles, a new study shows. The analysis — the largest looking at the drivers of varicose veins — found that certain genes that determine a person’s height are linked to the condition.
Varicose veins affect roughly 30 million American adults and may cause swelling, aches and pains. Although not always considered serious, varicose veins may lead to skin ulcers, blood clots in veins deep inside the leg, and other health problems. Treatment, which depends on the severity of the condition, includes use of compression socks, laser surgery and vein removal.
For the study, published Monday in Circulation, the researchers reviewed about nine year’s worth of medical records of nearly half a million mostly white men and women in a long-term U.K. health study. Participants were between ages 40 and 69 when they enrolled and didn’t have a history of varicose veins at the time.
According to the results, the taller you are, the higher the chance of developing varicose veins. But researchers went one step further and confirmed the finding on a genetic level, uncovering that the genes that predict height directly influenced the development of varicose veins. In addition, the researchers observed shared genes linked to varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis, a serious condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in the leg.
Some of the other results were familiar. For instance, the findings confirmed that older age, pregnancy and obesity are risk factors for varicose veins. The data also suggested that more research is needed to examine a relationship between blood pressure and the venous disorder.