Epidemiology and risk factors for varicose veins among older people: cross-sectional population study in the UK

A. Clark, I. Harvey, F. G. R. Fowkes

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Background: There are many hypotheses concerning risk factors for the development of varicose veins based mostly on pathophysiological plausibility. Population studies have been carried out mostly on the middle aged with relatively few on elderly populations.

Objectives: To investigate epidemiological risk factors for varicose veins in an elderly population in the UK.

Methods: The South Wales Skin Cancer study – an examination survey undertaken between 1988 and 1991 of a random sample (n = 792) drawn from all patients aged 60 and over registered with a general practitioner in South Glamorgan. Exposure variables were obtained from a structured administered questionnaire combined with clinical examination. Unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios were estimated using logistic regression.

Results: The response rate was 71% with an average age of 71 years (range 60–97). The age-adjusted prevalence of trunk varices was 63.2% (95% confidence interval [CI] 57.9–68.4%) in men and 57.0% (95% CI 50.6–63.4%) in women. In a multiple logistic regression the significant risk factors for varicose veins were increasing age (P value = 0.001), obesity (odds ratio [OR] 3.28, 95% CI 1.25–8.63, P = 0.042), self-reported history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) (OR 3.19, 1.16–8.78, P = 0.024) and history of hypertension (OR 0.58, 0.38–0.89, P = 0.013). The results for gender suggested that women were at greater risk than men, but this was not statistically significant (OR 1.53, 0.99–2.38, P = 0.056).

Conclusion: Trunk varices occur very commonly in older age groups with increasing age, obesity and possibly female sex as risk factors. Associations found with DVT and hypertension were based on history alone and must be interpreted with caution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-240
Number of pages5
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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