The Good and Bad News
No one wants varicose veins, however, there is about a one-in-three chance that you will develop them in your lifetime. They’re not pretty, but they're a fact of life. That’s the bad news. The good news is most people who have varicose veins don't experience complications, which can include swelling, itching, burning, and occasional bleeding. Some cases can become so severe that walking becomes painful and difficult.
Several factors increase your risk of developing varicose veins, these include:
• Family history of varicose veins
• Lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyle
• Standing or sitting for long periods of time
• Female gender
• Age 30-70
• History of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
Many of these key risk factors are out of your control, however, managing your weight is a factor you can directly control.
Excess Weight and Varicose Veins
When you are overweight the veins in your legs are continuously under increased pressure. This increased pressure contributes to the development of varicose veins and aggravating the symptoms of the condition.
Beyond the possibility of developing varicose veins, being overweight also increases your chances for developing hypertension (high blood pressure); this can contribute to the development of varicose veins, as well as other more serious health problems, most notably stroke or heart attack.
Additionally, being overweight puts you at much higher risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Losing just 15 pounds can make a significant difference on your long term health.
Get a Diagnosis
If veins are appearing near the surface of your skin, or if you are noticing symptoms such as itching or burning near the vein location, or pain in the region, particularly when lying flat at night, you should report the symptoms to your physician. Together, you and your physician can develop a plan to manage your weight and explore treatment options.
To manage your weight, your physician can advise you on a diet and exercise regimen that is appropriate for your age, weight, and physical ability. To treat your varicose veins, your physician can refer you to a vascular specialist. Vascular specialists have a host of tools to address varicose veins, usually through minimally invasive outpatient procedures.
This can include:
• Compression stockings – Elastic stockings that squeeze your veins and prevent excess blood from flowing backward through the valve. These are worn daily for several months to see if this alleviates the pain and swelling associated with the varicose veins.
• Sclerotherapy – A process that causes the vein to scar from the inside out and be absorbed by the body over time. This is performed on an outpatient basis.
• Vein stripping – This procedure involves making a small incision in the groin and another below the knee. The diseased varicose vein is tied off and then removed from the leg.
• Microphlebectomy – Through micro-incisions, small varicose veins are removed in the leg, with no stitches necessary. This is performed on an outpatient basis.
• Laser Venous Ablation – For this procedure, a catheter is inserted into a vein in the leg and a small fiber laser at the tip of the catheter heats the walls of the veins and destroys them, closing off the vein completely. This is performed on an outpatient basis.
Why Vein Treatment Before Weight Loss?
Before implementing a weight loss program, you should consider seeking treatment for your varicose veins first. Here are a few advantages of treatment first, weight loss second:
Easier to be active
After treatment for varicose veins, you can walk and exercise pain-free. It’s more likely that you will stick with an exercise regimen because post-treated legs typically feel healthier and more energized.
The right type of exercise
Staying active is generally good for vein health, however, exercises like weightlifting can put excess strain on veins. Partner with your physician to develop a workout regimen that will both help you drop pounds and not put unwanted stress on your veins. Briskly walking at least one-half hour a day is a great start.
Diagnostics that can save your life
When you are overweight, you have a much higher chance of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) – a dangerous blood clot that could cause serious medical complications, such as a Pulmonary Embolism (PE). Detecting a DVT before starting an exercise program could provide life-saving information. A simple vein diagnosis by a vascular specialist can accomplish this. The vascular specialist can also address a DVT.
The post-treatment advantage
Procedures such as sclerotherapy or laser venous ablation offer quick, comfortable recovery times. After which you can begin a walking regimen to build stamina and then develop a more robust exercise regimen based on your physical capabilities. You should always partner with your physician to ensure your regimen is both safe and effective.
Your diet matters
Diet doesn’t mean “not eating.” After your vein treatment, talk to your physician about how to implement a vein-friendly diet. This will likely consist of a balanced diet of lean proteins, “good” fats, fruits, and vegetables, which is in-line with traditional weight-loss and nutritional programs.
By seeking treatment for your varicose veins in combination with losing weight, you will feel healthier and be healthier; you will have more energy and be more active; and you will be proud to show your legs off in public.