Have you ever wondered why your legs feel so tired at the end of the day? Or suspected that the veins behind your knees have gotten bigger as you age? Maybe you just wish you could wear shorts to the beach without feeling self-conscious about your legs.
These reasons, and more, are why it’s worth spending a little time thinking about your vein health. Venous insufficiency occurs when healthy veins become damaged and allow the backward flow of blood into the lower extremities. This pooling of blood can lead to a feeling of heaviness, aching, and can cause skin changes, such as spider veins or a brown, woody appearance of the lower legs.
How can you tell if you have venous disease? Symptoms include:
- Leg fatigue or heaviness – It is an early warning sign when legs feel good upon waking but are intensely tired or heavy at the end of the day.
- Swelling – This can be caused by many things but also serves as a very early warning sign for vein problems.
- Skin changes – Redness, skin thickening or other color changes on the legs and/or ankles is a common (and commonly overlooked) symptom.
- Spider veins – Blue- or purple-colored veins that occur under the skin but are close enough to be seen on the surface can be the “tip of the iceberg.”
- Varicose veins – Another sign of early stage venous disease, varicose veins are visible veins in the leg that bulge, often protruding through the skin.
- Ulcers – An open wound on the leg or ankle that fails to heal can be the result of ongoing venous disease, often an indication that venous disease has reached an advanced stage.
It’s important to note that, some people with venous disease present with no symptoms at all.
What’s your risk?
There are a number of risk factors for vein problems. Aging is one of the leading risk factors for the development of vein issues. Seniors’ veins respond differently to everyday stress compared to that of a younger person’s because vein walls are primarily made of collagen. As the body ages, a decrease in the production of collagen causes the veins to become more brittle and the valves more likely to fail, especially in the superficial veins. Thus, there is a higher incidence of varicose veins in the elderly population.
Another risk for venous disease is heredity. For instance, if one parent has vein disease, you have about a 33% chance of also developing vein problems. If both of your parents have vein issues, then your chances go up to 90 percent.
While aging and family history are risk factors that can’t be controlled (try as we might), venous disease can be aggravated by environmental risks. It is much more common in “industrial countries” like the U.S., where riding in cars and sitting in front of a computer or television seem like a way of life.
Sitting for long periods of time is a risk factor, but so is standing still for too long. There are many jobs that require standing for hours on end— teachers, nurses, lobstermen, and chefs, to name just a few! Research has shown that the more hours one stands, the more likely it is that a vein issue will develop.
Likewise, lying in one position for too long can cause serious vein problems. 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.
Now we come to my favorite part: solutions! If you recognize the phrase “vein strippings,” then please, remove it from your vocabulary forever. Today, there are evidence-based treatment options that are minimally invasive, highly successful, and allow you to return to your regular routine almost immediately.
I also believe that education and prevention are the most important keys to vein health. Please join me at Coastal Pharmacy and Wellness on March 21, 2019, from 6-7:00 PM to learn more about what you can do to have optimal vein health. Visit the events page for more information and to register.