Are Varicose Veins Genetic or Hereditary?

Legs and feet of a family of three.

Your grandma gave the best hugs and always made the most delicious apple pie. She had so many good qualities you remember about her, but you might also remember the purple and blue varicose veins that covered her legs.

A question on your mind might be, if your grandmother and mother had varicose veins, would you have them, too? Are varicose veins hereditary? Is there anything you can do to prevent hereditary varicose veins?

Understanding the Genetic Predisposition of Varicose Veins

Your genes determine many aspects of your health and appearance. This includes how likely you are to develop various health conditions, including varicose veins, as you age. 

Varicose veins, or venous insufficiency, happen when the valves that carry blood back to the heart weaken or fail. The pressure caused by the blood unable to get back to the heart causes the veins to twist and bulge. An ineffective vein also damages small capillaries around the veins, leading to the development of tiny purple and blue spider veins.

Varicose veins typically occur on the legs but can occur anywhere on the body. While varicose veins can affect both genders, women are more likely to struggle with this condition [1]. If left untreated, veins can get worse, leading to cramping, aching, pain, restless legs, and eventually, the development of wounds and sores due to poor circulation.

Varicose veins are genetic. If one of your parents has varicose veins, you are 40% more likely to have them. There is a 90% chance of developing them if both parents have varicose veins [2,3]. The bottom line is that varicose veins are inherited. 

Other Risk Factors for Varicose Veins

Even if both of your parents have varicose veins or neither of them does, other risk factors besides genetics can predispose you to vein issues. Here are the top risk factors:

  • Age. The older you get, the weaker the valves within the veins become.
  • Weight. Excess body weight puts pressure on veins, particularly in the legs and feet.
  • Sedentary lifestyle. Blood flow from exercise improves circulation and facilitates the flow of blood. 
  • Standing or sitting for long periods. Lack of movement reduces circulation, increasing the risk of vein failure. This is seen in those who have jobs requiring long periods of sitting or standing in one place.
  • Gender. Women are much more likely to develop varicose veins than men, likely due to hormonal changes.
  • Pregnancy. Blood volume and the weight of the growing baby puts pressure on the veins. However, varicose veins that show up during pregnancy tend to resolve after birth.
  • Smoking. Smoking cigarettes narrows the blood vessels, increases blood pressure, and causes damage to blood vessel walls.
  • Injury. Any injury that puts pressure on the legs, ankles, feet, or stomach can affect circulation and cause damage to veins. 

Genetics combined with some of these risk factors increases the risk of developing varicose veins, particularly as we age.

Can Hereditary Varicose Veins Be Prevented?

Genetics is not destiny. Even if both of your parents have varicose veins, don’t be discouraged. There is a lot you can do to prevent hereditary varicose veins. A few of these preventive measures include:

Exercise regularly

A sedentary lifestyle could increase your risk of varicose veins, but being active lowers your risk. Aim to exercise at least 150 minutes per week and include workouts that strengthen your legs and heart [4]. Don’t forget to stretch your legs, ankles, and feet, which can also help improve circulation.

Maintain a healthy weight 

Excess body weight puts pressure on your veins, which can exacerbate valve damage. Aim to maintain a healthy weight, but if you are overweight, losing even just 5% of your body weight can greatly reduce the pressure on your veins.

Eat a low-sodium, balanced diet

Sodium can increase blood pressure and blood volume, which can damage veins and valves. The goal is to limit your intake of sodium to no more than 2,300 mg per day, which is about a teaspoon. 

A balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains can also support vein health by providing essential nutrients your circulatory system needs to function. 

Avoid sitting or standing for too long

Sitting or standing at work for too many hours can put pressure on your veins, particularly those in your legs and ankles. Try to change your position as often as possible. 

If you can’t move around, consider stretching in place. Heel raises, flexing your feet and ankles, or doing under-the-desk leg circles can help. 

Finally, wearing compression socks during long periods of standing or sitting can help. These socks put slight pressure on your legs, encouraging the blood to move up the leg and help improve circulation. 

How to Treat Genetic Varicose Veins

At some point, you may want to seek treatment for genetic varicose veins as they typically don’t go away on their own and may begin to get worse. At Empire Vein Specialists, we offer many simple procedures that can resolve varicose veins. 

All of our physicians are board-certified vascular surgeons who specialize in helping those struggling with varicose veins caused by genetics or other health conditions. Empire Vein Specialists is the top provider of VenaSeal™, the leading outpatient varicose vein treatment in the USA.

To learn more about which treatment is right for you, schedule a free 15-minute consultation with one of our team members or call 1-800-VARICOSE (1-800-827-4267).


  1. Varicose veins: Overview. (2019). Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG).
  2. DePopas, E., & Brown, M. (2018). Varicose Veins and Lower Extremity Venous Insufficiency. Seminars in Interventional Radiology, 35(1), 56–61.
  3. Cornu-Thenard, A., Boivin, P., Baud, J. M., De Vincenzi, I., & Carpentier, P. H. (1994). Importance of the familial factor in varicose disease. Clinical study of 134 families. The Journal of Dermatologic Surgery and Oncology, 20(5), 318–326.
  4. Structured exercise improves calf muscle pump function in chronic venous insufficiency: a randomized trial. J Vasc Surg, 2004. 39(1): p. 79-87