Most people live with some stress; for many people, managing daily life can induce occasional periods of stress. For some people, however, stress becomes persistent or even chronic. While most people experience stress with symptoms of fatigue, heartburn, stomach aches, and headaches, chronic stress can take a significant toll on the body, exacerbating the previous symptoms as well as adding anxiety and depression.
Furthermore, chronic stress can have an impact on the body’s vascular system. Some patients even present an increase in varicose veins during this time. But can stress cause varicose veins?
Here’s the thing: varicose veins are a form of vein disease and for the most part are hereditary. Varicose veins are caused by a weakening of the venous walls and valves, which cause blood to pool in the lower extremities. Stress itself won’t have much of an effect on healthy veins, but long-term stress can take its toll—especially when the veins become compromised for other reasons. Long term stress can cause extra pressure on the veins, and if the veins are having a hard time pumping blood back up to the heart, that blood will collect and pool, swelling the weak veins.
When people experience stress, they are less likely to take care of their body. Stress eating may occur, or people may be under too much pressure, leaving no time to exercise. Either (or both) of these situations can lead to weight gain, which can add pressure to the veins and weakening the venous walls.
Stress eating can involve salty foods, which, in large quantities, can increase blood pressure. In already susceptible people, this too can adversely affect vein health.
Some people even begin (or increase) smoking as a coping mechanism for stress. While this may seem to provide temporary stress relief, smoking only increases the chances of vein disease, not to mention the myriad other health issues that can ensue.
If a person has a family history of varicose veins, there isn’t much that can be done to prevent it, and they likely will appear regardless of stress levels. However, there are always ways to minimize the chances of the appearance of varicose veins, as well as the severity.
First, make choices that can help reduce stress. Prioritizing essential tasks at work to better manage a workload, or taking up some kind of daily relaxation technique won’t in and of itself prevent varicose veins, but these strategies can reduce stress levels and lower blood pressure.
Either sitting or standing at work for long periods of time can also increase the chances of experiencing varicose veins. Low impact movement can help improve circulation, and an increase in varied activity can help the body pump the blood from the legs back up to the heart. Taking the long way to the break room, the restroom, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator are just a few strategies for boosting physical activity when there isn’t time to work out.
Additionally, stress eating may seem satisfying in the short-term, but overall, overeating or eating too much unhealthful foods makes the body lethargic, or can cause water retention. Couple the physical effects of the bad food with the accompanying guilt that happens when people know they’re eating food that isn’t good for them, and stress levels can increase further. If possible, it’s always best to reduce temptation to reward with junk food and instead opt for the more healthful and still satisfying snacks.
Some people will see varicose veins appear and experience additional stress over health concerns (an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis, or DVT), or just feel unhappy over the appearance of the unsightly veins. The good news is that varicose veins can be easily treated with a short office visit for sclerotherapy, a nearly painless injection of the chemical sclerosant directly into a varicose vein in order to damage the inside lining of the vein, which will scar the vein and cause it to close. That is something that we at San Diego Vein Institute can take care of for you; the rest of the stress reduction is up to you.
If you are ready to consider sclerotherapy to remove your varicose veins, visit us at www.sdveininstitute.comor contact us at 760-944-9263.