Researchers at the University of Birmingham are looking for volunteers aged between 30 and 50 to take part in a major study investigating whether obesity makes us more prone to problems like varicose veins and ulcers, which are caused by poor circulation.

The study aims to see if body shape and weight affect the way in which veins drain blood from the legs. Varicose veins are a common health problem affecting about 4.5% of the population and are caused by increased pressure on the veins and damage to the complex system of valves. As well as being a cosmetic problem they are often painful, and in more severe cases, can develop into ulcers.

The OBVIOUS study is run jointly by University Hospital Birmingham Vascular Department and the University of Birmingham’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences.

Dr Maggie Brown from the University’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences comments: “We want to measure how well our bodies cope with pumping blood from the legs back to the heart. Just spending time standing up puts a considerable strain on the veins in the legs.

However, we believe that being overweight may hinder the flow of blood from the legs and significantly increase the risk of developing problems.

We hope that this project will help identify which people may be at greatest risk of developing varicose veins in the future so we can take action at an early stage.”

Volunteers for the study will be asked to attend a session at the Wellcome Clinical Research Facility, where researchers will measure full body composition (DEXA scan). They will also take measurements of the blood pressure in the legs.

Further assessment involves a visit to the University’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences to take a small sample of blood and further measurements of the blood pressure in the legs.

Mr Michael Wall (Clinical Research Fellow and Vascular Surgeon) comments: “Nearly 2% of the NHS budget is currently spent in dealing with the long term problems of ulcers caused by damage to the veins. This is a chronic problem that has a very significant negative effect on many older people’s quality of life and wellbeing.

As the population in the UK gets older these problems are likely to become more common and place a greater strain on NHS budgets. Unfortunately this isn’t currently one of the government’s healthcare priorities, which is why research to identify the risks at an early stage is extremely important.”

Anyone interesting in finding out more about the study should contact Mike Wall (lead researcher) on 0121 627 1627 ext 52358 or email,


For further information

Contact: Ben Hill, Press Officer, University of Birmingham, Tel 0121 4145134, Mob 07789 921 163, email