Varicose Veins: What Men Should Know

When thinking of varicose veins and spider veins, men often conjure images of grandmas with blue hair and compression stockings. However, according to some researchers, up to 56 percent of men contract varicose veins. As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, varicose veins are not simply a cosmetic annoyance; problems associated with varicose and spider veins can range from discoloration, heaviness in the legs, to even bleeding and skin ulcers, all of which can hinder daily activity if not lead to greater consequences such as blood clots.

All this means that men should not ignore the symptoms out of shame or because of an outdated stigma. While genetics and weight play a role in the likelihood of getting symptoms of varicose veins, often times it is athletes who are prone to this condition. And we are far from the days when painful vein stripping was the only solution, as the painless sclerotherapy and laser treatment have replaced the outmoded procedures.

In the meantime, here are some facts to consider:

Many men lift weights as a form of exercise. Strenuous exercise such as weightlifting can strain venous circulation. When blood flows from the legs back up to the heart, it moves through the abdomen, in the vena cava. Heavy lifting and straining increases abdominal pressure and impedes blood from traveling back to the heart. Instead, the blood pools in the leg veins, which increases the venous pressure and reverses the flow back to the varicose veins in the legs. For those who do lift weights, make sure to use proper techniques with lower weight and higher rep routines. Also, stretch your muscles in advance of more intense movements, since veins rely on the muscles to efficiently transport blood. Preliminary stretching increases the heart rate to oxygenate the blood flowing into the veins surrounding the muscles. Follow up with light cardio such as walking or riding an exercise bike, then proceed with weight you can handle; too much weight may increase risk of injury and prevent the valves in the veins from opening fully to enable blood flow. Only increase weight load gradually. Post-lifting, cool down for at least ten minutes by walking or other light cardio to maintain blood flow, and commence by repeating the warmup stretching. Finish by elevating legs and even wearing compression hose or leggings.

In general, it is important to maintain a regular exercise regime in order to maintain healthy venous structure and keep vein walls strong. Try to involve your calves, a big player in maintaining blood flow from your legs back to your heart.

Similarly, men as well as women find themselves more attached to their computers for work, which requires long periods of sitting. Blood naturally pools in the legs when not in motion, and sitting for long stretches exacerbates the problem. If it’s not possible to take regular stretching breaks, make sure to move your legs, raising them at your desk or tapping your feet. If you’re standing still, sway from side to side. When you have a chance, try to lie horizontally a few times a day for fifteen minutes to reduce vein pressure.

Men are generally afraid to seek treatment for varicose or spider veins, often choosing to ignore the symptoms because they don’t understand the significance of the condition. But treatment is quite easy and is very effective and should not be overlooked, no matter your gender or your lifestyle. And while not everyone is ready for compression hose, there are many steps you can take to relieve symptoms of or eliminate altogether those pesky grandma veins.

When you’re ready to talk about sclerotherapy or laser treatment, or if you have any questions about the treatment for varicose and spider veins, contact us at 760-944-9263 or visit us at