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Varicose veins are a woman's health issue and other myths

Often varicose veins are thought to be a woman’s health issue. The truth is both women and men develop varicose veins. In fact about half of all cases of varicose veins are found in men. Varicose veins are slightly more common in women. While 25 percent of adult women have some visible varicose veins, only 10 to 15 percent of men have visible varicose veins. One big difference between men and women is that men often do not seek treatment for bulging veins in their feet or legs. However, the symptoms can be just as impactful for men as with women.

Many other myths surround varicose veins, let’s take a closer look at some of the common myths and set the record straight.

Myth: Varicose veins are a cosmetic issue

Truth: Varicose veins can lead to other health problems

Varicose and spider veins are often symptoms of a more serious underlying condition, such as venous hypertension or venous insufficiency. Both can lead to open leg ulcers, blood clots, or a pulmonary embolism if left untreated. Varicose veins increase the risk of developing severe dryness and itchiness of the skin near the varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis, a type of blood clot. A small percentage of people can develop bleeding, skin discoloration, skin thickening and ulcer formation, too. Physical discomfort that comes with varicose veins includes dull achiness, heaviness, throbbing, cramping, and swelling of the legs.

Myth: Varicose veins affect older people

Truth: Young people develop varicose veins

Even though varicose veins can worsen as people age, anyone can develop varicose veins, including teenagers. Genetics plays a bigger role in developing varicose veins than age does. The single biggest factor of developing varicose veins is genetics. If your parents or grandparents have varicose veins, you have a higher chance of developing them.

Myth: Running can cause varicose veins

Truth: Running promotes vein health

Exercise — including running — usually is a good choice for keeping your veins healthy. Exercises involving the calves, such as running or power walking, promote circulation – which moves the blood flow from your legs back to the heart. In fact, exercise is one of the simplest, easiest ways to stay healthy.

Discuss with your vascular doctor if you should wear compression socks when running and/or elevate your legs for a period after running.

Myth: Treatment requires surgery

Truth: Non-invasive procedures are the norm

Forty or 50 years ago, “vein stripping” was a common practice for treatment of varicose veins. Today, doctors use minimally invasive procedures with local anesthetics, lasers, and sometimes sonic waves to treat varicose veins. These updated techniques do not leave scars and the recovery period is short.

Some medications, called sclerosing agents, close a vein by causing irritation. Others are adhesives that seal a vein shut and don’t require the area to be numbed.

As for recovery, newer treatments have quicker recovery times. Some procedures can be performed in an office setting within 20 to 30 minutes with no recovery time; other procedures might require slight limitations for a couple of days.

Myth: Crossing your legs causes varicose veins

Truth: Cross your legs, but don’t sit too long

Did your mother tell you not to cross your legs because it reduces blood flow to your heart? That wives’ tale simply is not true.

However, be mindful of sitting in one position for an extended period and for how long sit in general. If you have a desk job get up and move around during the day. Make the time to take a short walk in the morning and in the afternoon to encourage blood flow.

Myth: Varicose veins cannot be improved or prevented

Truth: Healthy lifestyle choices have positive results

What you eat and drink and how you choose to live affects your vein health.

Maintain a healthy weight, reduce high sodium and fatty foods from your diet and exercise regularly. Talk with your vascular doctor about wearing compression stockings, introducing calf-strengthening exercises and elevating your legs daily to improve your situation.

Discuss your specific situation with your vascular doctor. To learn more about vascular disease or to make an appointment go to www.sdveininstitute.com or call 760-944-9263.

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