Healthy veins aren’t simply a cosmetic issue, but an essential part of your overall well being. No matter what stage you are at in your life—whether you’re planning a pregnancy or playing with your great-grandkids—knowing the symptoms and risk factors for vein conditions can help you stay healthy, happy, and on the move for years to come.Prevention & Management
Circulation is key. A get-up-and-go attitude is good for vein health, as long as it entails easy, fluid movement of the legs, like walking or jogging.Early Detection
There is no doubt that prevention plays a major role in the evolution of spider and varicose veins. Patients who neglect early symptoms of vein disease will likely see a worsening of their veins. Once a vein condition is first detected, time is of the essence. While vein disease may progress slowly at first, once it reaches a critical point, it may progress at a much more rapid rate. Taking preventative measures can curb this progress and reduce the need for more invasive treatment options.Exercise
Simply put, exercise helps stem the progression of varicose veins and increases overall circulatory health. Aerobic exercise has beneficial effects on varicose veins, particularly when the activity utilizes the calf muscles of the leg. Since these muscles act as a physiologic pump of the lower extremity, the use of these muscles encourages the return of venous blood back into the truncal circulatory system.
Conversely, strenuous exercise that involves minimal aerobic activity and straining of the abdominal muscles actually has negative effects on the venous circulation. Increasing abdominal pressure can ultimately impair the return of blood back to the heart, further exacerbating venous reflux and venous insufficiency. These exercises include prolonged abdominal posturing (yoga), sit-ups, crunches, weightlifting,
Simple lower extremity exercises such as walking and jogging can help the circulatory system and facilitate the return of venous blood back to the central circulatory system. Compression
Graduated compression socks and hosiery have been a proven prescription in the prevention, management and treatment of the many stages of venous insufficiency. What does graduated compression therapy do to help with the management of venous problems? The external graduated compression acts as a layer of muscle by gently squeezing the stretched vein walls together, allowing the valves to close and function properly. The cavity of the vein is reduced, thereby restoring blood flow to a normal state and aiding overall circulation.
Graduated compression exerts more pressure at the ankle and lessens or “graduates” as it moves up the leg, assisting in the normal upward circulation flow. To be most effective, the socks or stockings should fit over the calf, be put on at the start of the day, and removed before going to bed.
It is recommended you wear compression hose when you travel to reduce swelling and the risk of a blood clot, known as DVT (deep vein thrombosis). Women should also wear compression hose to reduce the development of varicose veins and help their leg circulation during pregnancy and the post-partum period. If your occupation requires long periods of standing or sitting without activity, compression hosiery is important to add to your daily wardrobe. Risk Factors
There are several factors that contribute to vein disease in adults. Knowing these risk factors can help you to better monitor your vein health.Aging
Research has shown that aging is one of the leading risk factors for the development of vein disease. As people age, vein issues become more prevalent. Small problems that may have started years earlier often progress into larger ones. Additionally, a decrease in the body’s production of collagen causes veins to become less elastic and more likely to “leak,” especially superficial veins. This is why there’s an increase of varicose veins in the elderly population. Heredity
Heredity can also play a factor. Significant research with gene mapping shows there is a genetic component to venous disease. While research in this area continues, most specialists agree that if you have a family member with varicose veins, you may be more susceptible to venous issues yourself. Lifestyle
Venous disease, like many physical conditions, can be aggravated by lifestyle and occupational risks. For example, standing for long periods of time (with or without high heels) is a known risk factor. Research has shown that the more hours one stands, the more likely it is that a vein issue will develop. Likewise, sitting or lying in one position for too long, whether riding in a car, flying, or even sitting in front of the television, can increase your risk of developing a vein issue.
Patients in the hospital or on bed rest, for example, may experience a slowdown in blood flow that can lead to blood pooling in the extremities. One possible risk caused by prolonged immobility is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is a blood clot that forms in the deep vein system. Another risk is superficial thrombophlebitis, which is a blood clot that forms in the superficial system. Both types of clots can damage the valves and result in venous reflux or insufficiency. Gender
Gender plays a prominent role in the development of varicose veins and other vein issues. Women are almost 2.5 times more likely to have vein disease than men. A woman has three “high risk” times in her life that men do not. First when she gets her period; during menarche, hormone surge is very common. Progesterone can act as a vasodilator—a hormone that opens or dilates blood vessels—causing veins to stretch significantly, sometimes to the point of damaging them.
In some cases, such as family history or ethnicity, it is impossible to eliminate risk factors for vein disease. However, some risk factors can be reduced. There are many treatment options today that are minimally invasive and highly successful, but education and prevention are the most important keys to vein health. Reprinted with permission from The American College of Phlebology and American College of Phelebology Foundation. For more information, visit www.healthyveins.org. DID YOU KNOW?
As seen in Camden County Woman and Burlington County Woman
- Women are almost 2.5 times more likely to have vein disease than men.
- High heels can make your legs look great, but high heels actually limit your calf muscles ability to “pump” blood back to the heart.
- Some types of exercise may actually put more strain on your veins, such as yoga, sit-ups and weightlifting.