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If you’re over 40, you’ve likely noticed visible purple and bumpy veins on your legs. While varicose veins are perceived more of a cosmetic concern, they can be an indication of an underlying cardiovascular condition.
According to the American Society for Vascular Surgery, around 20 to 25 million Americans have varicose veins. While the condition impacts tens of millions, women are much more likely to suffer from varicose veins than men. In fact, only 17% of men are likely to have varicose veins, while 33% of women will suffer from them.
So, why are women more likely to get varicose and spider veins? Here’s what you need to know about what causes varicose veins, why women are more prone to the condition, and some valuable information provided to you as to the best treatment for varicose veins.
Are you wondering what causes varicose veins? Here’s the inside scoop!
Varicose veins develop when the veins become swollen and enlarged. The condition occurs when small one-way valves within the vein weaken and malfunction. When functioning normally, these vein valves prevent blood from flowing backwards through the veins. When malfunctioning, the valves allow bi-directional blood flow instead of uni-directional, which allows blood to pool in the veins, thereby causing them to become swollen, twisted, and visible.
Varicose veins can be painful and can cause a burning or throbbing sensation, as well as muscle cramps, a sensation of leg heaviness, and swelling of the feet and ankles.
There are many factors that play a role for why women are more prone than men to develop varicose and spider veins. Here are four reasons why women are at a higher risk:
Women often have professions that involve being at a desk for most of the day. Excessive sitting, crossing the legs, and wearing high heels is one of the common causes of developing varicose and spider veins. Too much sitting weakens circulation throughout the body, which impairs venous return and prevents blood from flowing up to the heart. Crossing the legs also impairs venous return and causes increased pressures to build within the veins. Wearing high heels significantly impairs the calf venous pump which likewise impairs venous return
To minimize these untoward influences, women should avoid prolonged sitting, crossing their legs, and avoid or minimize wearing of high heels. Frequent walking, wearing compression socks and comfortable shoes that allow the calf venous pump to operate normally can also help.
At the same time, too much standing also increases the risk of varicose veins and spider veins. Gravity tends to win the battle of properly circulating blood flowing within the lower extremities. When active, calf muscle contractions force blood flow back to the heart. However, prolonged standing throughout the day makes it difficult for venous blood in the legs to overcome the effects of gravity and to return to the heart and lungs.
Intermittent walking and compression socks can help reduce the risks of venous pooling in the legs.
Hormones have a huge impact on the development of varicose and spider veins in the legs. Even though progesterone naturally occurs in both men and women, women tend to have higher levels. This hormone is often the culprit behind the development of varicose and spider veins.
High levels of progesterone are known to weaken blood vessel walls. This causes them to expand, which impacts the function of the vein valves. When vein valves are unable to keep a healthy one-way directional blood flow within the veins, blood pooling occurs. Pooling blood makes the veins expand, which causes them to bulge, dilate and twist beneath the skin.
Progesterone levels can fluctuate due to many different factors, including:
High levels of progesterone may also cause weight fluctuations, leg pain, and a loss of libido.
The older we get, the more susceptible we are to weakened veins. Menopausal women experience a decline of progesterone and estrogen, which further weakens the vein walls. Hormone replacement therapy, which is a common treatment for minimizing the side effects of menopause, can worsen vein problems and increase the likelihood of developing venous blood clots.
Pregnancy itself is a hormonal storm. Pregnancy comes with many different factors that can increase the risk of varicose and spider veins. As a baby develops and grows, the body naturally increases the blood volume and blood flow throughout the body, as much as a 50% increase. This leads to enlarged veins, higher venous pressures, and damaged valves within the veins.
A pregnant uterus with a growing baby inside mechanically compresses the veins returning blood from the legs to the heart including the inferior vena cava. Compression of this main blood return vein by a pregnant uterus significantly contributes to impaired venous return, vein bulging and enlargement, venous pooling, and foot and ankle swelling during the later stages of the pregnancy.
The good news about pregnancy-related varicose veins is that the pregnancy influences tend to disappear and normalize 3-6 months after childbirth. The downside is that the negative influences on vein health with each pregnancy tend to compound and last longer with each subsequent pregnancy.
While women are at a much higher risk of suffering from spider veins on legs, the good news is that there are many proven spider vein treatment options. Treatment is often an in-office procedure that is efficient and long-lasting.
Some of the most commonly used spider veins treatments include:
Not only are these treatment options effective, they’re also safe and are minimally invasive. There may be some pain and bruising during your recovery time.
To determine the best treatment for spider veins on legs, you’ll want to consult with a vein specialist that can provide a thorough examination and consultation of your individual case. Remember, there are all sorts of factors that play a role in the development of spider veins, so the best treatment option for you may be different from another patient.
There’s no one way to prevent spider veins from occurring. This is because there are so many risk factors that are beyond our control, including age, family history, and hormonal imbalances. Simply put, there isn’t a go-to cure for spider veins, but there are certain things you can do to lessen your likelihood of suffering from this cosmetic condition.
Exercising on a regular basis improves circulation and muscle tone. Routine physical activity may reduce the risk of developing spider veins, while also minimizing the risk of new ones.
Other things you can do from home to prevent spider veins include:
While you may not be able to prevent spider veins altogether, there are certain things you can do to minimize your risk.
Spider veins are not only unsightly, but they can cause mild itching and discomfort. If you’re looking for an effective treatment for spider veins on legs, look no further than Hogue Clinics. We offer a wide variety of treatment options, including spider vein removal and other office procedures.
Our Hogue Vein Institute is fully accredited by IAC Vascular Testing. We provide free vein screening and comprehensive vein evaluations with state-of-the-art diagnostic ultrasound imaging systems.
Call our office today at 866-219-4699 so that you can get back to your life before it was tainted by varicose veins and spider veins.
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