How to prevent varicose veins?
Varicose veins and spider veins are widespread vein diseases. Also the most common complaints occur in the superficial leg veins. Unfortunately, it is not a purely cosmetic issue. Hence, varicose veins increase the risk of thrombosis and embolism. Therefore, it is important to start early with prevention.
Here you will find everything you need to know. As a dermatologist with my own vein competence centre, I can give you tips on how to prevent or improve varicose veins.
What are varicose veins?
First of all, varicose veins are dilated and altered superficial veins. They usually wind down the legs like small bumps.
Many people have a genetic predisposition for weak connective tissue and vein weakness. Consequently they often tend to suffer from varicose veins. Accordingly, a distinction is made between primary and secondary varicose veins. The former occurs most frequently and is caused by a congenital venous wall weakness.
On the other hand, secondary varicose veins are caused by other diseases. For example, blood congestion and blockages in the deeper veins can overwhelm the superficial veins. As a result, they slacken over time and varicose veins develop more quickly.
In contrast to popular belief, they occur almost as frequently in men as in women. Risk factors are increasing age, overweight and in women, female hormones and pregnancy.
How do I detect varicose veins?
Although the likelihood of varicose veins increases with age, symptoms often already start in adolescence or early adulthood. Accordingly, they do not occur overnight. The first signs of venous insufficiency can be seen early on:
- Heavy, tired legs, especially in the warm months of the year
- Swollen ankles and lower legs - often due to water retention
- Spider veins - small, dilated veins
- Tension in the legs - increasing when sitting or standing for long periods of time
Above all, it is important to react quickly when the first signs appear. A venous screening is very advisable in order to detect the problem early enough and to avoid an operation.
How can I prevent varicose veins?
As we have already learned, venous insufficiency is often caused by a individual predisposition. This means that if parents and grandparents already had weak veins, the risk of venous insufficiency is twice as high as normal.
However, even with a genetic predisposition, there is a lot that can still be done to strengthen the veins and thus prevent varicose veins, at least to a certain extent:
- A lot of exercise and sports support the blood circulation and strengthen the muscle pump.
- Elevating legs from time to time facilitates the work of the venous valves.
- Cold and warm alternating showers stimulate the bloodcycle.
- A healthy diet, because overweight often worsens a venous disorder.
Be careful about the myths!
The myth that crossing your legs or standing and sitting for long periods of time enhances varicose veins is not true. Certainly underfloor heating or frequent sauna visits also do not lead to an increased risk.
Nevertheless, if your family history has already burdened you with vein insufficiency or if the first signs of varicose veins appear, a preventive vein check-up at an early age is highly recommended. This helps to detect problems early and to find a suitable therapy. In the best case, an operation can be prevented.
How are varicose veins treated?
The treatments are very different depending on the disease. The classical treatment called stripping, in which the vein is surgically removed from the body, is only carried out on rare occasions in my vein competence center.
Instead, we use treatments in which no skin incisions are necessary: the RFITT method and laser ablation. Furthermore, we treat smaller blood vessels with an injection. Above all in our practice we use ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy.
Again, smaller vessels, also called spider veins, are treated with special lasers. In short: preventive vein screenings are important in order to detect vein weaknesses early on and to combat it with the right therapy.