Varicose Veins and Your Legs
I love my job! But did I pick the right occupation for my legs? NO!!! When I chose to study pharmacy, I didn’t know my family history of varicose veins and that standing all day was another risk factor. I was also blessed with 4 children. Those pregnancies didn’t help my leg health either. Three surgeries later, I realize the importance of preventing my chronic venous insufficiency from getting worse.
What is Venous Insufficiency?
When our circulatory system functions properly, our heart pumps oxygenated blood throughout our body by arteries and then our veins bring them back to the lungs and heart to get re-oxygenated. Damage to valves in our veins cause blood to pool in our lower extremities. As a result, our veins stretch and weaken and it becomes more difficult for them to send blood back to our heart. Venous insufficiency can lead to blood clots, deep vein thrombosis, or venous ulcers.
Maybe you won’t ever have it. But if you notice your legs swelling or aching, spider veins appearing, thinking of getting pregnant, or your grandma has varicose veins, there are ways to keep your legs feeling and looking youthful.
Risk Factors of Varicose Veins
- Family history is one of the most important risk factors.
- Women are at greater risk due to hormones.
- Extra weight puts more pressure on the muscles in our legs.
- Pregnancy causes extra pressure on our legs, increased blood volume, and again hormones cause varicose vein in the lower extremities. Multiple pregnancies increase risk.
- Vein elasticity weakens as we age.
- Prolonged Standing or sitting.
Varicose Veins Signs and Symptoms
- Tired, achy, heavy legs
- Skin changes
- Varicose and spider veins
Preventing Varicose Veins
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time in the same position. Take walking breaks and/or try calf exercises to get blood pumping.
- Wear compression especially when traveling or being on your feet throughout the day.
- Increase activity levels to improve circulation and strength in legs. Aim for 30 minutes per day. Walking is great for our legs!
- Avoid high heels and tight clothing around the waist.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Elevate legs above heart after a long day, especially if legs are swollen.
- Don’t smoke as it may worsen elasticity in veins.
Compression Therapy for Varicose Veins
I’m not talking about the stockings your grandparents used to wear. Compression socks are now made to fit our lifestyles. They can be stylish, comfortable, and make the difference in how your legs feel at the end of the day. What you want is a stocking that is made with graduated compression, meaning they are designed to be have more compression at the ankle and less at your calf. This is what helps fight gravity and to move the blood back up to your heart to improve circulation.
The key is prevention. Unfortunately, varicose veins aren’t going to go away on their own. By following the lifestyle recommendations mentioned earlier, you can help to reduce symptoms and complications. Your pharmacist or physician can guide you on the best compression therapy. Our CHI Health Pharmacies carry a variety of stockings, but we also have a catalog with other options to order. We will measure you for the correct size to ensure your comfort and we can bill your insurance if covered. We look forward to helping you make your legs feel more energetic. I can’t imagine a day without wearing mine!