Many people with varicose veins wonder if genetics played a role in their development—or if it destines them to get varicose veins if a parent has them. Is the answer all in your genes? And if it’s true that genetics plays a role in varicose veins, is there anything you can do to help?
To quote Sam Kean, an American science writer, “Genes are like the story, and DNA is the language that the story is written in.” But can you change your story?
According to the National Human Genome Human Research Institute, a genome is another name for the entirety of your DNA. Your DNA determines your specific genetic code and all the information needed to build and develop the one and only you! Each person has their own unique genome.
Learning about your own genome will provide insights into your own health and help you make healthful choices throughout your life.
So, there are things you can do, and good choices to make, to help yourself stay healthy. This applies to vein health as well.
First, A Word About Varicose Veins
If a person has chronic venous insufficiency, they will develop varicose veins. Chronic venous insufficiency is a condition that makes it difficult for blood to flow back up to your heart easily. This occurs due to a problem with the tiny valves in the veins, or a weakening of the vein walls.
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) usually affects veins in the legs. Blood flows in both directions and pools in the legs. The veins enlarge. We easily seen these enlarged veins since they usually bulge out of the skin. These veins are varicose veins.
Is Chronic Venous Insufficiency Caused by Genetics?
Varicose veins are more likely to occur as a person ages. But what role does genetics play? Do gender, hormones, and ethnicity play a role?
Let’s see what the studies say.
Researchers have reported that they believe genetic factors play a big role in the development of varicose veins.
But the specific genetic factors influencing the development of varicose veins remain largely unknown and poorly understood. This, in part, is because there are many factors that can contribute to the development of varicose veins. These factors range from hereditary factors to weight and lifestyle.
Gender and Varicose Vein Development
In one case-control study on 134 families, researchers found the following results:
- If both parents had varicose veins, the risk for children of developing them was 90%.
- If one parent had varicose veins, the risk for children developing them was 25% for males and 62% for females.
- When only one parent had varicose veins, there seemed to be no correlation between the sex of the affected parent and the varicose veins in children.
They concluded their findings excluded a sex-linked pattern of inheritance.
Women have a greater chance of developing varicose veins than men do. How much genetics plays a role in this, and which genes are involved, is still to be determined.
Ethnicity and Varicose Vein Development
In a study of 2,211 people, chronic vein disease (the earliest stage is spider veins) “appeared to be more common in non-Hispanic whites than in Hispanics, African-Americans, and East Asians.” However, the study went on to say that these results were most likely linked with social habits; they did not seem to be linked to genetics.
A study of four ethnic groups in Southern California, using visual examination and ultrasound, showed that:
- Varicose veins were present in 33% of woman and 17% of men, with no ethnic differences
It concluded that the presence of varicose veins varied by gender but not by ethnicity.
Hormones and Varicose Vein Development
Today, it is an accepted fact that women’s hormones can play a role in the development of varicose veins. During pregnancy, elevated hormonal levels of estrogen and progesterone can thin the walls of veins, making pregnant women more susceptible to chronic venous insufficiency. Estrogen can also cause damage to the valves inside veins.
Menopause also will affect the health of women’s veins, but in the opposite way. During this time, a woman’s hormone levels decrease. This makes the walls of the veins thicker, less flexible, and more constricted.
How To Help Prevent Hereditary Varicose Veins
Clearly, there are some things about varicose veins that are out of our control—they are written somewhere in your DNA! But there are things you can do to help prevent them.
- Keep at a healthy weight
- Exercise—walking is great for vein health
- Try to avoid sitting or standing still for long periods of time
- Wear compression socks or stockings
- Eat a healthy diet, including complex carbs and protein
- Avoid salty food
- Drink lots of water
If you have varicose veins . . .
If you have varicose veins that are simply unattractive, or that are causing you discomfort, make an appointment to see us at NJVVC. At our state-of-the-art vein center, you can have a complete vain evaluation, and receive treatment for your varicose veins.
Do you feel leg pain from varicose veins? Are you embarrassed to wear shorts or a bathing suit because of the varicose veins on your thighs? If so, treatment is available. But will your health insurance cover your varicose vein treatment?
Medical Necessity vs Cosmetic Appeal
Varicose veins can cause discomfort. This makes some people dread the thought of standing on their feet for a long time. Varicose veins can cause sores or ulcers to develop on legs and ankles. They can even promote development of blood clots. These veins are cause medical problems for the patient.
For others, varicose veins are more of a cosmetic embarrassment.
Are your varicose veins a threat to your good health, or are they simply unattractive? It’s important that you know the answer not only for your health but for medical insurance coverage as well.
• When varicose veins affect your health, treatment is a medical necessity. Medical insurance usually pays.
• Varicose veins are a cosmetic problem when they don’t threaten your health or well-being. Medical insurance won’t cover treatment.
To learn about your vein health, make an appointment to visit our office. Our highly skilled vein specialist will check your veins. He can develop an individualized treatment plan for you.
We even offer a free vascular screening. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain. You will feel better and enjoy improved vascular health.
How do Health Insurance Companies Define a “Medical Necessity?”
Let’s start with what we know. Medical insurance will cover treatment of varicose veins when it’s a medical necessity. But here’s the catch. What one company considers a medical necessity, the next company may not.
Visit our web page on Varicose Veins to learn more. There we discuss the symptoms and treatments of varicose veins. You will learn the specific symptoms that usually make treatment a medical necessity.
The criteria most insurance companies base their coverage approval on are:
1. Annoying or Painful Symptoms
2. Identified Venous Reflux— Insurance companies want proof that a vein is not functioning. Documented venous reflux, when blood flows backwards in a vein, is cause for treatment. We diagnose it with ultrasound. However, ultrasound cannot show venous reflux in spider veins; they are too small. So, medical insurance doesn’t cover the treatment of spider veins. They may make an exception for bleeding spider veins.
3. A specified Time of Unsuccessful Conservative Treatment— Did you try an improved diet and exercise plan? Did you wear compression socks daily? Did you rest and elevate your legs each day? The insurance company will want to know this information. Each insurance company has their own requirements. Some insurance companies want you to wear compression socks for 12 weeks.
The important takeaway here is that you need to learn what your insurance company covers. A friend’s experience with a different insurance policy can be quite different. This can be true even if they use the same medical insurance company.
Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and Supplemental Plan Coverage
Medicare offers great news for treatment—that is, when the veins are causing a health issue.
This Federal health insurance requires that treatment will protect or improve your health. They may want to know that you already tried lifestyle changes. But ultimately you can count on Medicare’s financial support.
Some common vein treatments that Medicare covers include:
• Ultrasound-Guided Sclerotherapy
• Laser Vein Ablation
Medicare will usually cover 80% of these costs. It is useful to have a good supplemental insurance plan to cover the remaining 20% of costs.
Be aware that Medicare Advantage will attach many stipulations to its coverage. Coverage from Medicare Advantage differs from coverage by Medicare.
Medicare and More Varicose Vein Treatments
Varicose vein removal coverage is less straightforward. There are many costs to consider, including:
• Doctor’s Fees
• Facility Cost
• Method of Extraction
• Number of Medical Sessions Needed
Do private health insurance companies, such Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), United Healthcare (UHC) and Aetna, cover varicose vein treatments?
BCBS, UHC and Aetna are three major insurance companies that cover varicose vein treatments. But like Medicare, the companies only cover treatments of medical necessity. They won’t cover costs for a cosmetic procedure.
Each insurance company has its own criteria to meet. Once this occurs, they approve varicose vein treatment.
Contact your own insurance company to learn the specifics of your plan and policy.
Wonder if our office accepts your insurance? Then visit our website for a list of insurances we accept and to see if we are in network for your plan.
What about Varithena®, ClariVein®, and Endovenous Laser Ablation Treatment (EVLT)?
These are three of the outpatient treatments option that we provide for varicose veins.
Will your medical insurance provide coverage?
Varithena is an FDA-approved sclerotherapy medication. Our doctor injects it into the varicose vein to displace the blood and cause the vein to collapse. Medicare and most private insurance companies cover this non-surgical treatment. But again, it must be a medical necessary necessity. And insurance wants to see you first tried conservative treatment options.
ClariVein is a tiny rotating catheter used in non-thermal treatment of varicose veins. Some private insurance companies and Medicare cover vein treatment using the ClariVein catheter.
EVLT uses laser heat to treat varicose veins. We give the patient local anesthesia. Guided by ultrasound, the laser closes off the vein. Our patient’s health insurance usually covers this procedure. Again, insurance companies want to see that we tried other treatment options first.
Let’s not forget about compression socks and stockings
Patients often wear compression socks as a conservative first-line treatment for varicose veins. Patients also need to wear them after vein procedures or surgery. But Medicare does not pay for these socks—even if the doctor writes a prescription.
Medicare Advantage plans may provide some coverage for compression socks or stockings under certain circumstances. This helps since compression socks can cost more than $100 with certain prescriptions.
Are you ready to take the first step?
Does treatment for your varicose veins qualify as a medical necessity? For the answer, contact us for an appointment at New Jersey Varicose Vein Center. You will enjoy visiting our state-of-the-art vein treatment facility. And you will leave with a clear idea of the medical coverage you can expect.