People who visit us for vein treatment often come to their appointments complaining of varicose veins or spider veins. Often, where there is one, there is the other. The reason is simple, both varicose veins and spider veins are symptoms of venous insufficiency. This underlying condition is one in which a vein or veins get weak. The vein may widen with excessive internal pressure or one or more of the valves in a vein no longer closes properly. Like other parts of the body, the venous valves can wear out somewhat due to a lifetime spent working 24/7. When a valve does not close all the way, blood that should be moving up and out of the leg instead moves backward. This may only be a little bit of blood at a time but, over months or years, the volume becomes enough to make the vein swollen and twisted. Once the valve has stopped closing efficiently, the pooling of blood becomes a chronic problem. If you know you are at risk of venous insufficiency and its spider and varicose veins, you need to know what to do to manage your condition well. If you do, you might be able to avoid needing periodic treatment to remove problem veins.
Do you have venous insufficiency?
If you see webs of tiny, squiggly purple, blue, and red veins on your legs, you may immediately recognize them as spider veins. This is relatively easy. Varicose veins, however, may go unnoticed for a time. Most people, when asked about the symptoms of varicose veins, answer that the veins bulge visibly. This is true, but visibility is not the only sign of varicose veins. In fact, other symptoms may occur before you ever see a bump on your skin from the swollen vein. These symptoms include:
- Leg cramps or aching
- Tingling or itching above the varicose vein
- Unexplained skin discoloration that does not go away
- Pain when standing that improves when the legs are elevated
- Restless legs syndrome
- A feeling of fatigue or heaviness in the legs
Venous insufficiency can become a chronic and frustrating problem if not managed well. At the first indication that a vein may not be functioning properly, it is highly beneficial to implement a few lifestyle habits.
Move Your Body More
You don’t have to be an avid fitness enthusiast to reap the rewards of daily movement. Many people find the idea of hours in a gym unthinkable and entirely unpleasant. Fortunately, the kind of exercise that is good for varicose veins is not the kind of exercise fitness gurus rave about. If you have varicose veins, what your doctor would like for you to do is walk. That’s it. Walking can do wonders for the efficient flow of blood through the legs. When you walk, your calf muscles contract and press on the veins as needed to pump blood upwards. To make the most of this lifestyle habit, walk for at least 30 minutes, at least five days a week. To increase the beneficial effects of walking, add some incline to the mix. Walking up and down even mild hills can change the way that the leg muscles contract.
Now, there are specific exercises that can be done to improve venous insufficiency. These target the calf muscles and can be done standing up, in a seated position, or lying down. They can be done in just a few minutes a day and, in some instances, even throughout the day while you’re sitting at a desk. Some examples include sitting with the feet flat on the floor and raising and lowering the heels to engage the calf muscles. Additional exercises for varicose veins can be found online.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Bodyweight is supported primarily by the legs. When there is too much weight to be supported, the veins may weaken under excessive pressure. The good news about this recommendation to manage weight is that it can be done in part by increasing physical activity. The walking that is recommended for vein health can also help you lose or maintain the best weight for your body frame. Additional tactics to manage weight may need to include some dietary changes. This can be made easier by joining a subscription-based diet program or by using a convenient smartphone app that tracks calories and other nutrients. One of the simplest ways to start losing weight is to trade take-out food for homecooked meals that consist primarily of lean meat or other healthy protein and fresh vegetables.
Limit Salt Intake
Like weight management is supported by increasing physical activity, limiting salt intake can be supported by making healthier food choices. The tricky thing about salt intake is that people who don’t add salt to their meals might think they don’t consume too much. These same people may eat packaged and processed foods every day, though, and these might contain significant amounts of sodium, which is the same thing as salt. Sodium is an ingredient used in crackers and cookies and chips. It may be found in cereals and is a component of soda, too. By changing dietary habits to include primarily fresh, whole foods, the issue of salt becomes easier to manage.
Elevate the Legs
Elevation is your legs’ best friend if you have venous insufficiency. When you lie down and rest your legs up on a wall or resting on the seat of a sofa or chair, the blood that has pooled is helped out. Elevation with the feet above the level of the heart removes the gravitational force that blood must work against to get back to the heart. Depending on your situation, you may want to elevate your legs at least once a day.
Vein health is a vital aspect of daily comfort. To consult with a vascular specialist about various vein treatments, contact Suffolk Vascular & Vein. We have offices in Port Jefferson Station, Hauppauge, and Riverhead, NY.