We’re not talking about the actual shape of your knees, thighs or calves. We’re talking about avoiding spider veins, varicose veins and venous insufficiency, which can cause pain and make it hard to walk.
Six out of ten people will experience a vein condition at some point in their lifetime. Are you one of them?
There are three risk factors that you cannot change. But with treatment and awareness, you may be able to minimize their influence.
#1 Your age. After age 35, the valves in your legs may not work as well as they did. As they become weak, blood pools in the veins leading to varicose veins or venous insufficiency.
#2 Your gender. If you’re a woman, you may be at a greater risk. Progesterone, a hormone associated with pregnancy and monthly hormonal changes, may be to blame. Progesterone may cause your veins to stretch, which can lead to varicose veins and other problems.
#3 Your family history. If your parents, grandparents or siblings suffer from vein problems, you may have inherited the same gene.
You can minimize your risk and the severity of vein problems.
Even if you have these three unavoidable risk factors, there are nearly three times as many healthy choices you can make to keep your legs healthy.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise to increase circulation.
- Change positions every 20 minutes if possible.
- Don’t cross your legs when sitting.
- Put your feet up when you are resting.
- If you smoke, quit.
- Don’t drink alcohol to excess.
- When traveling, walk every hour.
- Be aware of soft tissue injuries. Deep bruises may damage your veins.
- Wear compression stockings if you have vein problems.
Do you have one of these common vein conditions? Vein problems range from minor to potentially life-threatening. Below are a few of the more common conditions we see in our clinics.
Varicose veins appear as large, cord-like veins running down the leg. They occur when the one-way valves in the veins no longer work correctly allowing the blood to pool. Varicose veins can be mild and painless or severe and painful, limiting movement.
Spider veins may cause itching or burning sensations in the legs. Occasionally, they may signal a problem with veins deep inside the calves or thighs.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot deep within the leg. It may develop due to weak veins or when you sit for extended periods of time. Half the people who have DVT don’t even know it. Others may feel pain when standing or walking. The skin in the area of the clot may feel warm, swell or be discolored. If you experience these symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Left untreated, the blood clot can break free and travel to the lungs, creating a pulmonary embolism. This life-threatening condition causes shortness of breath, severe pain when breathing deep, and a bloody cough. If you have these symptoms, dial 911.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) may cause a dull, achy or heavy feeling in your legs. Weakened vein walls and damaged valves are to blame. Other symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency include cramping, itching, tingling, leg pain, swelling, redness, thickening skin on the legs or ankles, wounds that are slow to heal, and color changes on the skin near the ankles. Left untreated, CVI will become more painful.
If you have visible varicose or spider veins or your legs feel heavy and achy, make an appointment your primary care clinician. He or she will be able to make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan for you. If you don’t have a primary care clinician you can find one at Ministry Health Care or Affinity Health System.