It’s a good news, bad news situation.
First, the good news: Varicose veins don’t always cause problems. In some cases, they can be resolved with simple lifestyle changes.
Now, the bad news: Varicose veins are unsightly—perhaps even to the point that you don’t want to wear shorts or your favorite skirt. This condition can also be very painful. Varicose veins can also cause sores, skin ulcers and blood clots.
This means that as long as you have varicose veins, you’re at risk of developing the pain and discomfort associated with them.
If you’re currently suffering from issues related to varicose veins, your first step is with your primary care provider. Your CMC primary care provider can help you choose the best course of action.
In the meantime, if you have varicose veins, we’ve provided these useful tips on how to prevent varicose veins from getting worse.
But first, let’s take a look at what causes them.
What causes varicose veins?
Veins carry blood to your heart. They all have a one-way valve—think of it as a turnstile—that helps the blood flow to your heart. Now imagine what would happen if that “turnstile” stopped moving. The same thing happens in the case of varicose veins. This one-way valve is damaged, and that means blood pools up in your veins. The result is swelling and discomfort.
Varicose veins are ropelike and can be blue or red, and can even make your skin bulge. They’re most common on the back and front of the calves, the inside of the leg and on the thighs, according to the Office on Women’s Health.
Am I at risk of developing varicose veins?
You have a greater chance of getting varicose veins if any of the following apply to you:
- Family History
We hate to break it to you, but if your mom had varicose veins, you’re more likely to develop them as well. Half of those with varicose veins have a family history of them, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
As you age, the valves in your veins may not work as well as they did when you were younger. This is another risk factor for varicose veins.
Sorry ladies, but the hormonal changes you experience—along with the use of birth control pills—can raise your risk.
Your growing baby doesn’t just put pressure on your bladder—it also places pressure on your leg veins. Fortunately in this case, the veins usually improve three to 12 months after delivery.
- Being overweight or obese
This excess weight exerts more pressure on your veins, leading to an increased risk.
- Standing or sitting for long periods of time
We’re looking at you, office workers. Staying in one position for an extended time forces your veins to work harder, which can place you at risk.
- Previous blood clots
If you’ve had any trauma to your legs or veins, this may weaken them, increasing your chances of developing varicose veins.
How to Prevent Varicose Veins from Getting Worse
Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take to enhance the blood flow in your legs. As a result, you can prevent your varicose veins from getting worse. Try these things.
1. Exercise regularly.
Your leg muscles are your biggest allies. Why? They help your veins push blood to the heart. This is very useful since your muscles are working against gravity. Any leg exercises will also help prevent the appearance of new varicose veins.
2. Lose weight if you’re overweight
You’re placing more stress on your legs if you are overweight or obese. Losing weight can also keep new varicose veins from forming. There’s a lot of benefits to losing weight other than helping with varicose veins. It also reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.
3. Avoid standing or sitting for a long time.
Today’s office workers are at greater risk of developing varicose veins or making them worse. Remember to take a break at least every half hour and stand up and walk for a short while, even if it’s just to the break room and back. This forces the leg muscles to move blood toward your heart more than when you’re in a sedentary position. If your job requires you to stand for long periods of time, try to schedule a similar break to sit for a while.
4. Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes.
This can place more pressure on your legs, which can make varicose veins worse.
5. Be sure to put your feet up.
When possible, place your feet on a chair or stool positioned so the blood will be able to flow back toward your heart. This is particularly important if you have a job that requires you to stand or sit for long periods of time.
6. Wear support pantyhose.
This is also a good preventative measure to take to help keep varicose veins from forming. These do not place as much pressure as compression stockings, but for many, this is all they need.
7. Invest in a compression hose.
You can purchase these over-the-counter or you can ask your doctor for a prescription-strength compression hose. Pressure on the ankle and lower leg helps blood move back toward your heart.
What Type of Treatment is Available for Varicose Veins
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, some of the most common treatments for varicose veins are:
This common treatment is best for smaller varicose veins. The doctor injects a chemical that causes the vein to swell shut. As a result, the vein fades in a few weeks.
- Closure system
If your varicose vein is just below the surface, this may be the best treatment for you. We take a sticky material and insert it into the vein to close it. Blood flow then returns to normal.
Conway Medical Center is a trusted leader in healthcare and has served the medical needs of Horry County and surrounding communities for nearly a century.
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. “Varicose Veins.” Online.
Office on Women’s Health. “Varicose Veins and Spider Veins.” Online.