It is not uncommon for middle aged and older men and women to have large bulging rope-like veins on the legs that can become painful and even become seriously inflamed and lead to a condition called phlebitis. Varicose veins are more common in women than in men. Varicose veins may surface for the first time or may worsen during late pregnancy, when your uterus exerts greater pressure on the veins in your legs. Hemorrhoids are varicose veins located in and around the anus. If these dilated veins are not treated they will almost always worsen and become more problematic.
Any vein in the body may become varicose, but the veins most commonly affected are those in your legs and feet. That's because standing and walking upright increases the pressure in the veins in your lower body.
For many people, varicose veins and spider veins — a common, mild and medically insignificant variation of varicose veins — are simply a cosmetic concern. For other people, varicose veins can cause aching pain and discomfort. Sometimes the condition leads to more serious problems. Varicose veins may also signal a higher risk of other disorders of the circulatory system.
These factors increase your risk of developing varicose veins:
- Age. Aging causes wear and tear on the valves in your veins that help regulate blood flow. Eventually, that wear causes the valves to malfunction.
- Sex. Women are more likely than men are to develop the condition.
- Genetics. If other family members had varicose veins, there's a greater chance you will too.
- Obesity. Being overweight puts added pressure on your veins.
- Standing for long periods of time. Your blood doesn't flow as well if you're in the same position for long periods.
There's no way to completely prevent varicose veins. But improving your circulation and muscle tone can reduce your risk of developing varicose veins or getting additional ones. You can decrease your risk of varicose veins by:
- Watch your weight, and your diet. Shedding excess pounds takes unnecessary pressure off your veins. What you eat makes a difference, too. Follow a low-salt, high-fiber diet to prevent the swelling that may result from water retention and constipation.
- Watch what you wear. Avoid high heels. Low-heeled shoes work calf muscles more, which is better for your veins. Don't wear tight clothes around your waist, legs or groin. Tight panty-leg girdles, for instance, can restrict circulation.
- Elevate your legs. To improve venous circulation, take several short breaks daily to elevate your legs above the level of your heart. For example, lie down with your legs resting on three or four pillows.
- Avoid long periods of sitting or standing. Make a point of changing your position frequently to encourage blood flow. Try to move around at least every 30 minutes especially if you are on a long flight on an airplane
- Don't sit with your legs crossed. This position can aggravate circulation problems.
Treatments are now available that are less invasive and can be done in the doctor’s office. Most insurance companies cover these medically necessary procedures used to treat varicose veins. For more information, ask your doctor.
Varicose veins can be a disabling condition that can lead to serious medical problems. By practicing good lifestyle habits this condition can be reduced or even prevented. Finally, new treatments are available that don’t require traditional surgery and a prolonged recovery period.
Content Copyright © 2013 Neil Baum MD, Used with Permission
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