Varicose Veins & Smoking (and Other Bad Habits)


Many people have a vice or two. It’s natural to let off steam through some outlet, whether it’s binge watching terrible reality television or indulging in an unhealthful snack. While any “vice” by its very nature as a vice should be kept to a minimum (especially the snacks), there are the branch of vices that put your health in real danger. On the top of that list is smoking cigarettes.

For people who smoke, many are aware of the consequences to the lungs, throat, even the heart. Smoking also yellows the skin and teeth, damages the hair, and causes halitosis. But as a vein specialist, my warning is that smoking even a little can wreak havoc on your vascular health.

So much of your overall health relies on having healthy veins. What kind of adverse effects, then, does smoking have on your veins? First off, the nicotine in tobacco products both hardens the arteries and narrows them. When arteries are both narrow and hardened, blood clots can more easily form. Additional chemicals and toxins present in most tobacco products are known to thicken the blood and reduce the oxygen in the blood. The thickened blood passing through narrow and hardened arteries can create a major medical crisis.

What is most easily apparent are the appearance of varicose veins. While these types of diseased veins can occur naturally, you are more likely to have varicose veins, with increased severity, if you smoke. An added risk of severe varicose veins is the occurrence of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or a blood clot deep in the vein, which can break off and enter the blood stream. If the blood clot travels to the lung, you end up with a highly dangerous pulmonary embolism. While DVT can occur in non-smokers, these blood clots are 50% more likely to develop in smokers.

Obviously, the best way to prevent this vascular condition is to quit smoking, immediately. But if you struggle with nicotine addiction, consider getting regular checkups with a doctor and treat your varicose veins with sclerotherapy to stem the risk of DVT and pulmonary embolism.

Think smoking is the only vice that causes vascular issues? Sorry to burst that bubble, but drinking is another habit that can be harmful to your cardiovascular system. But isn’t red wine supposed to be good for your heart?

When consuming an alcoholic beverage, the body’s natural reaction is to increase the heart rate and blood pressure. This will diminish as soon as the alcohol is processed through the body’s natural functions. However, over the long term, habitual consumption of alcohol can cause a sustained increase in heart rate and blood pressure, which over time can weaken the heart muscle. For people who already have weakened veins or severe varicose veins, this will create an added strain on the heart and dangerous conditions for blood clots and even a stroke.

If overeating is your vice, remember that increased weight around the middle cuts off blood flow in the vena cava, the main artery that carries deoxygenated blood from your legs to your heart. This causes blood to pool in the legs, leading to varicose veins (or making preexisting varicose veins worse). The occasional snack or indulgence won’t set you back, but persistently consuming unhealthful foods, especially foods high in salt, can in some people be as dangerous as smoking and drinking.

It can be easy to pick a vice and convince yourself that it’s not doing that much harm to your body. But it’s important to know that so many of your body’s systems are connected and feed into each other. Your body may already be giving you warning signs that you haven’t recognized. Maintaining a healthy vascular system should be foremost in your plan for optimal health. So visit a doctor if you think you may be at risk for serious vascular disease, or visit us to treat your varicose veins with sclerotherapy. For appointments or information on our services, go to or call us at 760-944-9263. In the meantime, consider healthy lifestyle choices and forego the vices.