Your ethnic background does play a role in whether or not you will need varicose vein treatment in your lifetime. In fact, many diseases have a genetic role where the gene mutations that cause certain diseases are found at a higher degree in certain ethnicities. For example, it has been well documented that type 2 diabetes is far more prevalent in Native Americans than in all other ethnicities, about double the rate that is found in non-Hispanic “whites.”
When it comes to varicose veins, and chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) which causes varicose veins, the highest occurrence of these diseases occur in non-Hispanic “whites.” This is the main reason we tend to hear more about non-Hispanic “whites having varicose vein treatment such as EVLT, EVLA, ELVeS, sclerotherapy, VNUS RF, and phlebectomy. Of course, this is also why varicose vein treatment is more heavily marketed to this ethnic group than to others. You’ll note that most of the varicose vein treatment brochures feature mostly non-Hispanic white people.
A 2003 research paper published in the American Journal of Epidemiology took a close look at the differences in occurrence of varicose veins and associated health issues in four primary ethnic groups in San Diego:
1. African Americans
4. Non-Hispanic Whites (Caucasians)
San Diego has a good diversity of people from which to draw and the researchers made sure to recruit a large sample of volunteers from each ethnic group for the study. In all, 2211 women and men with an average age of fifty-nine participated for the full study.
The study was very well designed. It started out with an interview with each volunteer. The same set of questions about their venous health background and lifestyle was posed to each volunteer. For example, each volunteer was asked if they had ever had a DVT, deep vein thrombosis (blood clot). They were also asked if they had ever been placed on a blood thinner medication. They were also asked about common symptoms of varicose vein disease.
Each volunteer was this given the same type of visual examination a person would receive at a varicose vein treatment clinic to determine the type of treatment they needed. Their legs were examined for varicose veins, spider veins, venous ulcers, evidence of past venous ulcers, pigmentation issues, edema, and other symptoms.
After the visual examination, all volunteers were then given a thorough scan with a duplex ultrasound machine, also known as a doppler ultrasound machine. Blood flow speed through the veins was measured, as was the direction of blood flow. If venous reflux was detected (the abnormal back flow of blood), the degree of venous reflux was carefully calculated, just as it would be in a clinic to determine if one needed varicose vein treatment. Vein structure was also carefully described.
The results were fascinating from a genetics perspective, especially since such clear differences were determined to be present for volunteers of different ethnicities. Overall, the non-Hispanic whites had a significantly higher degree of both visible signs of varicose veins and spider veins as well as a higher degree of serious functional problems like significant venus reflux.
There were two exceptions to this. Hispanics have a slightly higher visible varicose vein rate and a slightly higher degree of venous reflux in their superficial veins (veins near the surface of the skin). However, non-Hispanic whites had a much larger functional problem in their deep veins (veins that run deep inside the big muscles of the legs like the calf and thigh muscles)) and significantly higher edema and pigmentation issues, as well as more spider veins.
Overall, participants of African decent had fewer vein problems, both in terms of visible vein problems (and spider veins) and in the function of both superficial and deep veins. This lower rate of varicose vein disease was followed by the Asian participants who had levels of visible varicose veins and functioning of veins. Basically, they fell in the lower middle of incidence for the ethnic groups studied.
It should be stated that this does NOT mean if you are African American you won’t get varicose veins or have venous reflux. In fact, thousands of African Americans receive varicose vein treatment for varicose veins, spider veins, and venous reflux every year. At the population level, African Americans just have a lower incidence of varicose vein disease, followed by Asians, and then Hispanics. Non-Hispanic whites have the highest incidence of varicose vein disease, and therefore, get the most varicose vein treatment as an entire ethnic group.
Regardless of ethnicity, there is a very strong genetic component to this disease. In other words, if members of your family have varicose veins, especially genetically close members, you have a much higher chance of needing varicose vein treatment in your lifetime. So, family history, rather than ethnicity, is the strongest indicator of whether or not you’ll develop varicose veins and underlying dysfunction of your venous system. However, ethnicity is a strong secondary factor to consider.
If you are curious as to how healthy your veins are, you can get a free evaluation of your veins at Metro Vein Center, one of the top varicose vein treatment centers in the US. To schedule a free evaluation at Metro Vein Centers, just look up the nearest location on their website and give them a call to schedule a time at your convenience.