Can Birth Control Pills Lead to Varicose Veins?

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birthcontrolWhen it comes to varicose veins and venous insufficiency, women definitely seem to have it a lot harder than men. While both men and women can share certain risk factors that might predispose them to vein disorders, such as smoking, being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of varicose veins, there are a few risk factors that are exclusive to women. Because of these factors, women are more likely than men to develop varicose veins, especially when it comes to younger patients.

Because pregnancy can result in the formation of varicose veins, due to increased hormone levels and additional weight placed on the lower extremities, the risk for varicose veins increases as soon as a woman becomes of child-bearing age. For women, however, the risk can actually start in the teenage years, and in many of these cases it is not pregnancy but pregnancy prevention methods that is the culprit. However, it is important to note that birth control in itself cannot actually cause varicose veins to develop – the true danger occurs when women who are taking birth control also have varicosities present, a combination which can affect the way a woman’s blood is clotting and lead to a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

While birth control can increase a woman’s chance for developing the life-threatening condition of DVT, this is not to say that all forms of birth control possess the same risk. More specifically, it is those which contain estrogen, a hormone that affects the way blood clots within the veins and puts women at an increased risk for clot formation. While estrogen alone can increase a woman’s risk for clot formation by up to three or four times, the risk is still relatively small; only about 1 in 3000 women who take birth control will develop a clot. However, if birth control is taken alongside other risk factors for venous insufficiency and DVT – obesity, smoking, varicose veins, or a profession that requires long periods of sitting or standing – then the risks are much greater.

By no means should an increased risk for venous disorders deter anyone from taking birth control pills if that is the best contraceptive method for them. However, one who does take birth control should always be aware of any other risk factors present in their lives and take special precautions to ensure they aren’t taking any unnecessary risks. For instance, women who are prescribed birth control should make a conscious effort to maintain a healthy weight, get frequent exercise, take breaks if their profession requires long periods of sitting or standing, and never, under any circumstances, take up smoking cigarettes.

If you’ve been on birth control recently or have other concerns about factors that might lead to varicose veins or venous insufficiency, contact Dr. Zuzga of West Florida Vein Center today by calling (727) 712-3233 and any of our friendly staff members would be happy to set up an appointment for you.

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