Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have found a connection between height and varicose veins. After the genetic analysis of more than 400,000 people, the experts determined that taller people are more likely to develop varicose veins.
Study senior author Dr. Nicholas Leeper is an associate professor of Surgery and of Cardiovascular Medicine at Stanford.
“Genes that predict a person’s height may be at the root of this link between height and varicose veins and may provide clues for treating the condition,” said Dr. Leeper.
More than 30 million people in the United States have varicose veins, which are swollen veins that are visible just below the surface of the skin. The experts identified 30 genes linked to this condition, which also had a strong genetic correlation with deep vein thrombosis.
While the complications are often only cosmetic, varicose veins can cause moderate pain. The disorder has also been linked to the more serious side effects of deep vein thrombosis, which occurs when a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins in the body.
“The condition is incredibly prevalent but shockingly little is known about the biology,” said study co-lead author Alyssa Flores. “There are no medical therapies that can prevent it or reverse it once it’s there.”
Treatment is usually limited to surgical procedures such as laser treatment or vein stripping.
“We’re hoping that with this new information, we can create new therapies, as our study highlights several genes that may represent new translational targets,” said Flores.
The association between varicose veins and height came as a surprise to the researchers, who also linked the condition to other risk factors such as surgery on the legs, family history, lack of movement, smoking, and hormone therapy.
“Our results strongly suggest height is a cause, not just a correlated factor, but an underlying mechanism leading to varicose veins,” said senior author Dr. Erik Ingelsson.
“By conducting the largest genetic study ever performed for varicose vein disease, we now have a much better understanding of the biology that is altered in people at risk for the disease.”
The study is published in the journal Circulation.