Are You At Risk For Varicose Veins?
Did you know that running and lifting weights can cause varicose veins? Things that you think are helping your body may not be benefiting it in the same way you would like. It’s not just hereditary, things you do on a day to day basis can increase your chances of developing varicose and spider veins. Even standing for long periods of time can put you at risk.
Generally, varicose veins is most common in older people and pregnant women, and usually occur in the legs and thighs. Your family history, age, lifestyle and hormones can all play a factor in developing varicose veins. Obesity can also increase your risk. Additionally, women are more likely to develop this condition than men. Although in most cases this is not a life-threatening condition, it can still cause pain and discomfort, or turn into something more serious.
About Varicose Veins
First things first-what exactly are varicose veins? We’ve all seen them on other people’s legs (if not our own) – teeny, tiny blue spider veins, or bulging, rope-like varicose veins. They’re the first sign that your circulatory system is struggling and needs help. Varicose and spider veins are swollen veins that usually appear on your legs. They can be blue, red or even flesh toned, and sometimes they can be raised above the skin.
Both spider veins and varicose veins look somewhat similar in appearance, but the main difference is that spider veins do not usually cause pain or discomfort. Varicose veins can also be caused by inflammation in your veins and from blood clots.
This condition develops when your blood is not circulating properly. In your veins, there are one-way valves that pump blood to your heart. When these valves become too damaged or weak to stop blood from flowing in the wrong direction, the blood remains in the vein, causing the veins to swell and twist near the surface of the skin.
Symptoms include burning, itching, aching, cramping, tiredness and swelling. They can cause blood clots and skin ulcers as well. If it gets worse, the skin may become inflamed and change color. Veins can appear blue and look like they’re going to pop out of your skin.
So how do they form? If you think back to anatomy class, you’ll remember that the heart pushes oxygenated blood out of the heart through arteries, and then veins bring the blood BACK to the heart for more oxygen. Your legs and feet are below your heart, so your veins must work against gravity to push this blood back up. As we get older, gain weight, and spend more time standing or sitting for long periods of time, our veins have more trouble pushing the blood back to the heart. Blood begins to collect in the veins, which makes them swell and become apparent under the skin. For some people, this is just a cosmetic issue – something you can see on your legs that didn’t use to be there, but for other people these veins can cause throbbing pain and soreness.
Varicose veins can evolve into a more serious condition called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). This can cause symptoms to intensify. According to the ACP Vein Center, 30-50% of adults are at risk of developing CVI. Women especially are at risk, with over 50% of the USA population affected by venous insufficiency. If a blood clot forms and blockage occurs, this can lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT). With all of that being said, you’re ready to hear about some preventative solutions right??
To help prevent developing varicose veins, you want to improve circulation in the body. To do so, you want to focus on your calves. They pump blood from your legs back up to your heart, so you want to strengthen these muscles as much as possible. One easy way to improve circulation is by wearing compression socks. The graduated compression helps to reduce swelling and muscle fatigue to keep your legs energized and ache-free all day. You can find thigh highs, pantyhose and knee highs that all fight varicose veins in a variety of colors, fabrics, styles and compression levels. Not sure what level of compression you should use? Check out our Buyers Guide for more information.
Generally, 15-20 mmHg is a good compression level for both the occasional and everyday wearer. Compression garments do more than improve circulation. They are great to wear traveling, to work, or when you are sitting or standing for long periods of time. Compression socks can also help athletes enhance performance, speed up recovery time and help to prevent injuries such as shin splints. It’s amazing how good your legs feel when you wear compression pantyhose or socks all day.
Listed below are some compression stockings that help with varicose veins. There are knee high, thigh high and pantyhose styles available by many different brands. Prices can vary anywhere from $12 to $60 or more depending on what compression level you need, the type of fabric and style you prefer. Sockwell has great products if you’re looking for something with style. Try our house brand, Allegro, if you are looking for a more affordable solution. Juzo compression stockings are perfect if you want something that is really comfortable. Wear Sigvaris or Jobst if you appreciate luxurious fabrics and a stylish look. Mediven offers a variety of products in many different styles, fabrics and compression levels for a great price.
For minor varicose veins, try a compression garment that provides 15-20mmHg of gradient compression. This level is perfect for traveling and relieves minor swelling, spider veins and helps to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Use a compression garment that provides firm 20-30mmHg of gradient compression for moderate varicose veins. Wear this compression level to treat mild to moderate swelling, DVT and post-schlerotherapy.
Wear compression stockings that provide 30-40mmHg of gradient compression under a doctor’s super vision. This compression level is best to wear during healing after surgical or sclerotherapy procedures to reduce swelling and chronic venous insufficiency.
When you sit or stand for long periods of time, wearing compression socks improve blood flow. When you are sitting down, it’s harder for your veins to get the blood back up to your heart. Compression socks squeeze the leg to reduce how much pressure and blood is in your veins and helps to regulate and maintain a healthy blood flow. By improving circulation, recovery time for tired, achy legs decreases. It is also important to keep your legs flat on the floor instead of crossing them when you sit. Making sure you get up and walk around every half hour to an hour when you are sitting for a long time can also help.
Walking is a great exercise to keep your legs happy and healthy. You want to find activities that stretch the muscle and also strengthen it without going overboard. This is why running and lifting weights can cause so much damage to your body. Lifting weights and doing activities like Pilates and Yoga can strain your abdomen which results in less blood being able to reach the heart. Light, moderate exercise can help prevent varicose veins from getting worse. It is important to keep your body health and in the best shape possible. Losing weight and wearing loose clothing can also help prevent varicose veins from worsening.
Another great way to help keep your legs healthy is to elevate them. Even keeping a footstool under your desk can help. Maintaining a healthy weight is also important. Too much weight on your legs can also cause circulatory problems.
There are a couple of procedures to treat varicose veins. One option is to undergo sclerotherapy, which is where a solution is injected into your veins, which prevents blood from filling them. The veins are eventually absorbed by the body and fade as time passes. However, this isn’t for everyone. Pregnant women cannot use this treatment. People who have a history of blood clots may not be eligible either. Other treatments include vein stripping, where an incision is made to remove the vein, and may result in scarring, or a similar operation called ambulatory phlebectomy that results in minimal scarring. It is really important to wear compression socks after this procedure to reduce the pain. Another option is laser treatment. In this procedure, a tiny fiber is put in the vein that sends out laser energy to kill the part of the vein that is diseased. Read more about treatments at the Society for Vascular Surgery website.
Resources on Varicose Veins
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