The influence of environmental factors in chronic venous insufficiency

Angiology. 2003 Jul-Aug:54 Suppl 1:S19-31. doi: 10.1177/0003319703054001S04.


The present article focuses on the prevalence and risk factors for varicose veins and the severe stage of chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). The evaluation was made by reviewing the results of specific well-designed studies performed on the general population (case-control studies, cross-sectional studies, and large case series). Data from the literature were compared with the results of a recent multicenter cross-sectional study in Poland, in which 40,095 individuals from 803 registers of primary care physicians were clinically examined and assigned a clinical CEAP class. Analysis of the associations between varicose veins or severe CVI prevalence and factors that are usually considered as representing a risk for the development of CVI was performed. In Poland, a prevalence of varicose veins and severe CVI (skin changes, leg ulcer) similar to that observed in the other developed countries was reported. It was more common in women, but female sex was not found to be a strong risk factor. Among the risk factors most closely associated with CVI were age, family history of varicose veins, and constipation, whatever the sex. This is in keeping with findings from recent epidemiologic studies. Obesity and lack of physical activity were strongly associated with CVI in women, more so than in men. The number of pregnancies (more than 2 pregnancies) significantly distinguished between women with and without CVI. Regarding these latter risk factors, the Polish results do not contradict the commonly held beliefs that are found in the literature. A modest association was found with female sex, previous injury in legs (DVT), and remaining in the standing position for a long time, although these parameters are usually among those mostly agreed as being risk factors. The role of the prolonged sitting position was not established. The Polish epidemiologic survey provided updated figures on the prevalence of and risk factors for varicose veins and severe CVI, using clear and globally accepted clinical definitions for the venous disease based on the CEAP classification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Constipation / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Poland / epidemiology
  • Posture
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Varicose Veins / epidemiology*
  • Varicose Veins / etiology
  • Venous Insufficiency / epidemiology*
  • Venous Insufficiency / etiology
  • Western World