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 Tips for Reducing Your Risk of Varicose Veins

 Tips for Reducing Your Risk of Varicose Veins

You can’t miss varicose veins. These large, ropy, colored swellings appear on the skin, mostly on the legs and feet. While they’re definitely an aesthetic eyesore, more importantly, they’re a sign of deeper trouble with the circulatory system.

At Northwest Houston Heart Center, Dr. Adnan Aslam and Dr. Roy Norman are concerned about your circulatory health, and that includes the varicose veins on your legs. They want you to understand how and why these large veins are problematic, and they’ve also put together some tips to help you reduce your risk of developing them.

What leads to varicose veins?

Arteries move oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body, and veins move oxygen-poor blood back to the heart. The return trip is a bit trickier, as the blood flows against the pull of gravity. Elastic vein walls and muscle contractions in your calves and thighs help push the blood on its way. You also have tiny valves inside your veins that open as blood flows by, then close tightly to prevent it from flowing backward.

Valves, though, can be weakened or damaged, often by high blood pressure. They no longer fully close, and blood pools around the damaged area, causing the veins to stretch or twist. The underlying condition is called venous insufficiency, since the sluggish blood flow provides insufficient nutrients to the tissues. When superficial veins are affected, the visible result is varicose veins.

Almost 40% of Americans experience chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) at some point in their lives.

While varicose veins may be a cosmetic concern, they can also produce pain, swelling, and an aching heaviness in the legs. In addition, they can lead to later stages of vein disease; these cause more complications and are harder to treat.

Varicose veins: a sign of deeper trouble

If CVI goes untreated, it puts you at risk for any of the following health conditions:

Vein damage and bleeding

Varicose veins aren’t just a problem unto themselves; they can damage the skin of your legs. Fluid leaks from the engorged vein, causing redness, warmth, and edema (swelling). The veins also thin the skin’s layers directly over their location. If you scratch or bang your leg, the vein can easily rupture, causing significant bleeding.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Large blood clots that form in the deep leg veins cause DVT, the next step in vein disease. The clot can either totally block blood flow, or it can cause it to become even more sluggish. The overriding concern with DVT is if the clot dislodges or a piece breaks off. The pieces can travel through the bloodstream to your lungs and block your airway, causing a pulmonary embolism (PE). This is a life-threatening emergency. Call 911.

Skin ulcers

CVI, in addition to causing further swelling and skin discoloration from the breakdown of hemoglobin (venous stasis dermatitis), can lead to painful, slow-healing skin ulcers on your lower leg and especially the ankle. Slow blood flow can’t deliver healing factors to the site quickly enough, so the ulcers can easily become infected. In diabetics, more than 80% of lower-limb amputations began with a venous ulcer.

Tips to reduce your risk of varicose veins

You can reduce your risk of developing varicose veins in many ways.

Change your position frequently, especially if you have a desk job. Stretch or walk around for a minute or two every 30 minutes to prevent blood from settling in the veins.

Exercise regularly, and make it a priority when not at work. Regular exercise strengthens your heart and improves your circulation. Walking, cycling, and yoga encourage blood circulation in the lower body.

Lose extra weight for vein and overall health. Losing just 10% of your body weight can take the pressure off your legs and prevent veins from becoming varicose.

Don’t wear clothing that’s tight around your waist, legs, and groin area, and ditch the high heels in favor of flats or pumps.

Quit smoking, as it dehydrates the tissues and roughens the lining of the arteries, setting them up for developing plaque and blockages.

Monitor your blood pressure to make sure it stays low enough that it won’t damage the valves in the veins.

Wear compression stockings to prevent clots, but speak with your doctor first, as you need to be measured for a proper fit.

Elevate your legs above your heart for at least 15 minutes a day to prevent fluid accumulation in the veins.

If you’re dealing with varicose veins, it’s time to come into Northwest Houston Heart Center for an evaluation; we have minimally invasive treatments to prevent those veins from causing more serious problems. Give us a call at one of our locations — in The Woodlands, Magnolia, Cypress, or Tomball, Texas — text us at 832-402-9518, or book online with us today.

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