To determine the prevalence of varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) in the general population.
Cross sectional survey.
City of Edinburgh.
Men and women aged 18-64 years selected randomly from age-sex registers of 12 general practices.
In 1566 subjects examined, the age adjusted prevalence of trunk varices was 40% in men and 32% in women (p < or = 0.01). This sex difference was mostly a result of higher prevalence of mild trunk varices in men. More than 80% of all subjects had mild hyphenweb and reticular varices. The age adjusted prevalence of CVI was 9% in men and 7% in women (p < or = 0.05). The prevalence of all categories of varices and of CVI increased with age (p < or = 0.001). No relation was found with social class.
Approximately one third of men and women aged 18-64 years had trunk varices. In contrast with the findings in most previous studies, mainly conducted in the 1960s and 1970s, chronic venous insufficiency and mild varicose veins were more common in men than women. No evidence of bias in the study was found to account for this sex difference. Changes in lifestyle or other factors might be contributing to an alteration in the epidemiology of venous disease.