Do birth control pills cause varicose veins?


Do birth control pills cause varicose veins?

May 6, 2015


More than 12 million U.S. women take birth control pills. Some studies have linked vein disease and birth control use, but one local expert suggests there’s more to the subject than the dramatic headlines it produces.

“Prescription medicines can affect everyone differently. As a medical professional, when dealing with this topic, it’s important to take into consideration other patient symptoms and health concerns, too,” said Nick Morrison, MD, world-renowned phlebologist and founder of Morrison Vein Institute in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The connection
Birth control pills have been linked to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or a blood clot in the leg that can cause swelling, itching, pain and other irritations. DVT can also lead to a pulmonary embolism, where the clot breaks free and travels to the lung. DVT is found in roughly 800,000 people annually, or one to two out of every 1,000 Americans, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Birth control pills contain estrogen, which can have a negative impact on clotting factors. Other reports highlight how estrogen and progesterone found in birth control pills can produce a relaxing effect on vein walls, another possible link to vein disease.

Some studies have found a 50 percent increase and others up to a six to seven times increase in DVT when using certain birth control pills (second or third generation), or even the patch.

However, even with the increases, the rate of incidence is still quite low – less than 1 percent.

“We don’t want to downplay DVT’s seriousness, but if the headline reads ‘a fraction of one percent of women will get vein disease’ I doubt it would capture the attention,” Morrison added.

The checkup
A medical checkup is required before a birth control prescription can be written. This precaution also involves the discussion of health concerns that relate to vein health as well as birth control. Obesity, smoking and other lifestyle choices – which are very much part of the vein disease conversation – are discussed during the checkup.

Being overweight, or obese, puts pressure on vein walls and is a contributing factor to vein disease. Studies have long shown smoking’s negative impacts on circulation and its potential health concerns for birth control pill users, too. But for those truly concerned about the vein disease-birth control pill connection, it’s also important to note that if a family member had vein disease, there is already a genetic predisposition.

“Birth control pills might aggravate existing conditions or predispositions, but if you’re concerned about vein disease, you should also take an honest look at family and personal health history and lifestyle choices too,” Morrison noted.

What you can do…
Morrison Advises patients with concerns related to family history of clotting or stroke, to research other options with your Doctor. Whether you use birth control pills or not, the physician offers several simple steps to reduce your risk of vein disease.

  • Wear compression socks to help maintain healthy leg circulation.
  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of bioflavonoids (found in many fruits and vegetables)
  • Walk 30 minutes a day and elevate your legs, when possible.
  • If you smoke, stop.
  • Get a vein check up from a trained specialist to learn about potential underlying venous problems.

For more information about the latest treatments for your varicose veins or to schedule a FREE vein checkup, visit morrisonvein.com, call 480-860-6455 or email the Morrison Vein Institute at info@morrisonvein.com.

Nick Morrison, MD, is a world-renowned leader in the phlebology field, an American College of Phlebology Fellow and a member of the American Venous Forum. He has performed thousands of vein procedures during his 20-year career and trained other medical professionals on advanced vein treatment techniques.