November marks the start of the fall running season. Does it also mark the start of running-induced varicose veins? Dr. Luis Navarro, director of the Vein Treatment Center in New York, sheds light on the effects that running can have on varicose veins in your legs.
Varicose veins are caused by poor circulation
According to Dr. Navarro, running is actually beneficial for people who have varicose veins because varicose veins are a result of poor circulation. He explains, "When you run, the venous muscles in the calves and the feet pump the blood through the veins to the heart."
A variety of other factors can also increase the risk and appearance of varicose veins in the legs. These include: age, genetics, pregnancy, birth control pills, hormone therapy, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, weight fluctuation, and prolonged periods of sitting or standing.
Women at risk for varicose veins
Varicose and spider veins affect roughly 50 percent of the female population and many women are quite embarrassed by them. The best ways to cope with varicose veins is to understand them, do what you can to prevent them and seek treatments when they form.
What are varicose veins and spider veins?
"Varicose and spider veins are dilated capillaries less than two millimeters in diameter located just below the surface of the skin, most commonly found on the legs and occasionally on the face," says Dr. Navarro. "Spider veins are blue, red or purplish with a web-like or linear appearance, while varicose veins are abnormally swollen or stretched veins that protrude from the surface of the skin, typically in a rope-like manner, usually occurring on the legs."
Varicose veins are due to weakness in the veins
According to Dr. Navarro, varicose veins develop due to a weakening of vein valves and vein walls; the weakening of the valves causes the blood to pool and stretch the vein, which causes it to protrude. Running and exercise of any kind is essential to keep your body healthy and strong – and can reduce the risk of developing varicose veins.
Treatments for varicose vein removal
Sclerotherapy, or "injection therapy," can successfully treat 90 percent of all varicose veins and nearly 100 percent of spider veins safely, effectively and painlessly, with excellent cosmetic results. The procedure includes injecting a mild chemical solution into the affected vein, causing the walls of the vein to become irritated and collapse. The vein is then absorbed in the body's natural healing process. The blood from the closed vein is rerouted to a healthy vein, thereby restoring proper circulation. Following the injections, the leg is wrapped with an elastic bandage for several hours. Over the next two to three weeks the treated veins begin to heal and "disappear." The Vein Treatment Center also utilizes a specialized technique known as foam sclerotherapy, in which the liquid sclerosing agent is converted to a foam-like substance, which is ideal for closing larger veins.
Ambulatory phlebectomy and Endolaser are performed on varicose veins that are too large to be treated with sclerotherapy. They are both done in-office, under local anesthesia. Phlebectomy involves removing the faulty portion of the vein through minute incisions that heal, leaving minimal scars. Endolaser, a treatment created and developed at The Vein Treatment Center, uses laser energy to seal the affected vein. These procedures require only a small nick in the skin, local anesthesia and no hospital visit or stitches.
Ways to prevent varicose veins
"Although varicose and spider veins can never be completely prevented, there are ways to slow the progression of the disease," says Dr. Navarro. "Get regular exercise, wear graduated compression stockings, monitor your hormone intake, elevate your legs, and eat a proper diet that is high in fiber and low in salt."
Varicose veins can hurt your health
Dr. Navarro also highly recommends seeking treatment in the early stages of varicose vein formation. "Untreated varicose veins can lead to conditions such as eczema, hyper-pigmentation, sores, skin ulcers, swelling, painful rashes and even increased potential for blood clots that can travel to the heart or lungs," he warns.
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