Varicose veins are a very common issue for women and men, especially from middle age. They develop for a variety of reasons, many of which are impossible to avoid – such as genetics, biological female sex, and ageing. Other contributing factors are more easily avoided.

Varicose veins are uncomfortable, unsightly, can be very painful, and get worse over time. Severe vein disease can result in skin sores, ulcers, and blood clots – which can be life-threatening.

There are ways to delay their onset and prevent them from worsening.

What Are Varicose Veins?

Veins are the vessels that return deoxygenated blood from the body tissues to the heart. Blood flow through many veins, especially in the lower body, must work against gravity. To assist with this and prevent blood from flowing backwards, veins contain one-way valves.

Varicose veins occur when these one-way valves fail. This may occur due to direct damage to the valve or through a weakening of the vein walls. This causes blood to flow backwards and pool, especially in the lower legs, further damaging and weakening the veins. The result is veins that are swollen, ropelike, and appear red or blue through the skin of the calves, behind and at the inner sides of the knees, and on the inner thighs.

Risk Factors for Varicose Veins:

  • Genetics/Family History – as many as half of all people with varicose veins had a parent with the same issue.
  • Age – incidence increases, particularly from middle age.
  • Female Gender (biological) – as a result of natural female hormones.
  • Obesity – carrying too much weight puts extra pressure on the veins in the lower body.
  • Pregnancy – a developing baby puts pressure on the leg veins and the veins in the pelvis. For many women who develop varicose veins in pregnancy, the problem resolves naturally within a few months to a year after delivery.
  • Menopause – due to hormonal changes.
  • Hormonal Therapy (Contraceptive or Menopausal) – use of birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy can increase the risks of developing varicose veins.
  • Prolonged periods of Sitting/Standing – occupational as well as from long-distance travel, as remaining in one position for a long time forces the veins to work harder.
  • Previous Blood Clots or Prior Injury to the Leg/s – trauma and clots may weaken the blood vessels and enhance the risk of future vein disease.

Enhancing blood flow in the legs is one way to prevent varicose veins from occurring or worsening.

Ways to Improve Leg Circulation – & Prevent Varicose Veins

  1. Avoid standing or sitting for prolonged periods – as this makes it easier for blood to pool in the legs. Take plenty of breaks to move around and force the leg muscles to work and boost circulation. If you are in a standing position for long periods, take a break to sit down when you can.
  2. Exercise regularly – not only does exercising enhance blood circulation; it also strengthens and tones the muscles of the legs. This in turn helps the veins more effectively push blood back to the heart and minimise risks of varicosity developing.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight – extra weight equals more stress and strain on the legs. Losing weight alleviates this and helps prevent new varicose veins from forming. You will also minimise your risks of developing issues such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which can cause blood clots.
  4. Drink plenty of water – keeping well-hydrated is important for circulation and overall health. Maintaining a healthy diet is also imperative – limit fatty foods, excess sugar, and salt.
  5. Wear support/compression socks/stockings – this helps prevent varicose veins from forming in the first place, and may alleviate discomfort in the legs.
  6. Avoid wearing tight clothing – clothing that is tight through the legs, hips, and even waist can put extra pressure on the legs.
  7. Put your feet up – give your veins a break when you can. Put your feet up, above heart height if possible, when you are able – when watching TV, reading, or otherwise relaxing. Aim for at least 20 minutes per day.
  8. Don’t smoke – cigarette smoking is the enemy of good health. As well as leading to respiratory disease and an array of cancers (including lung, mouth, throat, breast, and bladder), smoking damages the blood vessel walls, causes plaque to build up, and compromises circulation.
  9. Sleep on your side during pregnancy – it becomes more and more important as pregnancy progresses to minimise the pressure the growing baby places on the pelvis. Sleeping on the stomach in the latter months of gestation is impossible; sleeping on the back puts enormous pressure on the large blood vessels in the abdomen, including the large pelvic vein just right of the midline. This can lead to pelvic vein varicosity as well as varicose veins in the legs. By sleeping on the left side during pregnancy, pressure on the veins is alleviated.
  10. Manage your blood pressure – as high blood pressure (hypertension) can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels.
  11. IMPORTANT – if you experience an injury or illness and require a period of immobilisation (e.g. bed rest after surgery; a cast, moon boot, or fixed brace after a leg/ankle fracture; etc), ask your doctor about whether you require prophylactic blood-thinning medication to reduce the risks of a blood clot developing while you are off your feet or your leg is immobilised. This is particularly important if you are older, you smoke, or you are a woman using hormonal contraceptives or menopausal hormone therapy.

If you do have varicose veins and you are concerned about discomfort, worsening symptoms, or their appearance, consider vein treatment to resolve the problem.

Contact Crows Nest Vein Clinic

If you have developed varicose veins, undergoing expert, minimally invasive varicose vein treatment is the key to preventing the issue from worsening, resolving symptoms, and improving the appearance of your legs.

Crows Nest Vein Clinic is a top Sydney vein clinic located on the Lower North Shore. Conveniently located, our clinic provides an essential medical service and has remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Nicole James is our experienced vein specialist. Having trained extensively both in Australia and the UK, she understands her patients’ concerns and she has the expertise and skill to deliver the most suitable treatment approach in our vein clinic to achieve outstanding health and cosmetic results. This may involve sclerotherapy, microsclerotherapy, endovenous laser ablation, or a combination approach.

To book a consultation with Dr James, contact us here, call (02) 9906 1555, or email [email protected]