Varicose Veins: Men vs Women

November 3, 2023 Dr Zil Yassine

Varicose veins are relatively common, affecting about a third of all adults. While most people think of twisted bulging veins that are discoloured and uncomfortable, there’s a lot more to them than just that. How likely you are to get them, the symptoms and any possible complications will vary from person to person. While several factors influence varicose veins development, one, in particular, has the most significant impact – gender. Let’s take a look at varicose veins and how they impact men vs women.

Are women more likely to get varicose veins?

Unfortunately for women, varicose veins are twice as likely to occur. This is primarily due to two hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. Both are more common in women, particularly during pregnancy and adolescence. Among other things, these hormones can weaken vein walls stopping blood from circulating from the legs back up to the heart. If blood isn’t able to sufficiently flow, it begins to reflux or pool in the vein. This can cause varicose leg veins and even pelvic or vulvar varicoceles.

With men, varicose veins are often more serious

Men don’t necessarily get the better end of the deal; while they are less likely to develop varicose veins, there’s a higher chance that men will have a more serious case. While there’s no clear reason why, factors that can contribute include prolonged standing, alcohol, cultural norms (ignoring milder medical issues) as well as smoking, all of which are much more common in men. Additionally, hormonal fluctuations and growth spurts can result in testicular varicose veins. While they often aren’t dangerous, they may in some cases cause discomfort, and in rare cases atrophy or fertility issues.

In what areas are men and women affected?

There are a couple of differences in where varicose veins pop up for men and women:

Vulvar Varicose Veins in Women

During pregnancy, women may develop varicose veins in the vulva. These typically surface when the body adapts to support a growing foetus. The increased weight strains the veins, making it difficult for the veins to circulate blood from the pelvis to the heart. So when this happens, blood pools and veins swell. 

Because of the physical changes women go through during pregnancy, they may experience Pelvic Congestion Syndrome (PCS). PCS is caused by varicose ovarian veins, a condition that is linked to vein strain and hormonal fluctuations. 

It’s best to undergo medical procedures like varicose veins treatment after childbirth due to one’s increased risk during pregnancy. So, here are several ways to manage symptoms while pregnant.

Testicular Varicose Veins in Men

Varicose veins in the testicles or varicoceles are when men experience enlarged veins in the scrotum. Typically, this develops during puberty as blood flow in the genitals increases. But when the valves are unable to circulate blood from the testicles to the heart, blood pooling is likely to occur. Thus, men may experience their veins swelling, which manifests as a lump in the scrotum.

Patients with varicoceles may not necessarily experience pain. However, since this condition affects sperm production, some cases may lead to infertility. So, it’s best to consult a doctor to determine the recommended course of varicose veins treatment.

Leg Varicose Veins

Most affected patients experience varicose veins developing in their lower extremities such as the thighs, calves, ankles, and feet. This is because being further away from the heart, your legs need to exert more effort to pump blood against gravity. Veins overexerting themselves may lead to valves malfunctioning, causing blood to pool. The most common symptoms occurring in the legs include:

  • Aching or throbbing pain
  • Swelling
  • Itchy and inflamed skin
  • Discolouration

Other Areas

Although less common because of the distance to the heart, varicose arm veins may also occur in patients. Other areas include the oesophagus, pelvis, and rectum.

How to manage varicose veins

Managing varicose vein symptoms will be similar regardless of gender, though the effectiveness of each method may vary depending on each individual’s particular case. So, try out the following and see which works best for you.

Diet: Cutting down on trans and saturated fats and eating more plant-based foods, especially berries, leafy greens, asparagus and apples will all help to boost your circulation and reduce the risk of clots, decrease swelling or inflammation around the veins. Lowering your alcohol intake also helps here. Understanding the good and bad foods for vein health will be important.

Smoking: has a wide range of adverse health impacts, and your circulation and blood flow are a big one. Quitting smoking helps lower your risk of vein problems and gives you plenty of other health benefits.

Exercise: Regular Regular exercise helps to promote heart health and good circulation. Keeping fit helps maintain a healthy weight (a key to good vein health) and keeps the muscles and veins in good shape.

Compression: Those who are standing or sitting for an extended period (for example working in hospitality, retail or in an office) are at higher risk. By wearing medical-grade compression stockings, you can help regulate blood flow, reduce swelling and manage the symptoms associated with varicose veins.

All of these lifestyle changes can make a big difference in your comfort levels and general health. However, when it comes to varicose veins, you can’t treat them with lifestyle changes. Proper treatment is often the best solution.

Treatment options

Regardless of gender, the treatment options for varicose veins will remain the same. There are several ways that the symptoms can be managed naturally however if you wish to have the varicose veins completely gone then treatment is the only option. Fortunately, there are plenty of minimally invasive, safe, and effective producers available today. At The Vein Institute, we offer Endovenous Laser Ablation, Radiofrequency Ablation, ClariVein, Sclerotherapy, and Medical Superglue.

Instead of removing the vein like in surgical stripping or phlebectomy, your vein doctor will instead seal it for your body to break down and absorb over time. infographic of varicose veins

In summary

There are a few notable differences in how men and women experience varicose veins. While women are more likely to get the disorder, it’s often more dangerous for men. Where women can get varicose veins in the vulva, men can develop them in the scrotum. However, treatment and management options are often the same across the sexes. 

Seek expert advice

The doctors at The Vein Institute specialise in varicose vein treatment. We offer patients a comprehensive program using non-surgical laser treatment techniques. To book a consultation and discuss our treatment program, call  13 VEINS (13 83467) or enquire via the Contact Us page.