Roughly 40 million Americans have been diagnosed with varicose veins. While anybody can contract varicose veins, seniors are especially affected. Some studies estimate that as high as 50% of Americans over the age of 50 have varicose veins.
Why are seniors so susceptible to vein disease?
With age comes deterioration within the body. This is a natural part of aging, though rates of deterioration are determined by genetics and lifestyle. This deterioration isn’t just loss of bone and muscle mass, or hair loss; as tissues soften, even veins and arteries weaken. When the veins weaken, so do the one-way valves in the veins that pump blood up to the heart (and keep the blood from flowing backward). As the valves weaken, blood falls back down the vein, into the lower parts of the leg. The weakened venous walls swell with blood, forming those long blue or purple ropes that frequently appear in the legs and ankles.
Why is it important for seniors to take action against varicose veins?
Varicose veins can cause a number of health problems and can complicate preexisting conditions (such as high blood pressure or heart disease).
Varicose veins cause discomfort. Even minimal discomfort can be a strain on quality of life. Discomfort can include burning, throbbing, heaviness in the legs, and pain. Any of these can compromise mobility. Additionally, when the blood pools in the diseased veins, fluid may seep from the vein into the surrounding tissue, which can cause swelling. While compression stockings may help the swelling, untreated varicose veins may only get worse, increasing the swelling.
A very real concern with varicose veins for seniors is bleeding, which can be triggered by a cut or a bump, much easier to get on weakened, aging skin. Bleeding from a varicose vein may be hard to stop, and this may be a serious health risk in a person with a compromised cardiovascular system. Or the swelling and weakened veins may cause leg ulcers to form, which if left untreated, can prove fatal. Additionally, potentially fatal blood clots can form when the blood flow decreases.
What is the best treatment for seniors to fight varicose veins?
First and foremost, it is important to stay active. Slow, low impact walking has so many health benefits for seniors, but most of all, it improves circulation throughout the body. When painful or uncomfortable varicose veins start to deter a senior from regular activity, this can set up a cycle of worsening health, as inactivity can lead to more pain, making it increasingly difficult to engage in any physical activity.
Getting out may be more difficult with age, but movement isn’t impossible. Marathons may be out of the question, but a slow and steady walk doesn’t have to be. Stretching and balancing activities such as yoga (as long as the abdomen isn’t overly strained or pinched) are also good activities for seniors, as are exercises such as biking (even stationary cycling).
Seniors should also monitor their veins with their doctor and consider sclerotherapy as a removal treatment. This may be especially important with seniors who already have limited mobility.
It’s never too late (or too early!) to get started on a venous health plan, including activity and diet management. For more information on vein health, or to schedule an appointment for an in-office visit for sclerotherapy to remove your varicose veins, contact us at SD Vein Institute by calling 760-944-9263 or visit us at www.sdveininstitute.com.