The veins that travel throughout the body are hidden gems that deliver blood to all organs and tissues. Blood is then returned through the venous system to be reoxygenated in the heart. The entire collaborative effort between the heart, arteries, veins, and capillaries is so automatic that we never really think about it. However, the entire process is also incredibly important. Any degree of disruption to the venous system could result in problems like uncomfortable varicose veins.
Venous insufficiency is the term that is often used to describe malfunctioning veins. Varicose veins, for example, are an indication that the valves in one or more veins (usually in the legs) has stopped working as well as they should. Valves that don’t work well don’t push blood back up toward the heart. Blood that doesn’t get pushed toward the heart pools in one area of the vein. That vein then swells. This pooling continues and, at some point, makes a length of the vein visible and painful. To manage vein health, it can help to know what may put you at risk for venous insufficiency. Common contributing causes include:
Age 50 seems to be a magic number for people to face a higher risk of vein problems. This is because the veins may weaken as we grow older as a simple matter of wear and tear. Interestingly, studies suggest that collagen, which we normally attribute to youthful-looking skin, can also be good for the veins. Collagen provides strength to soft tissues in the body and has been shown to encourage elasticity in the veins. Because collagen also decreases with age, it may be necessary to take a supplement such as time-released vitamin C to help the body keep up with production.
Weight and Activity Level
We mention weight and activity level together because the two go hand-in-hand. When we are less active, we are more prone to weight gain. The more weight the body (and vascular system) carries, the more stress it endures. Movement is vital to weight management and also to the circulation of blood through all veins in the body. It isn’t necessary to spend hours on the treadmill every day or to engage in hard-core exercise like cross-fit. What is necessary is regular movement. If you sit at a desk all day, get up every hour to shake out your legs or, better yet, take a short walk around the office. Those five- to ten-minute breaks can go a long way at supporting the proper circulation of blood from the legs.
We all experience certain hormonal changes at various times in life. Women, in particular, have a higher risk for venous insufficiency related to these changes. Studies indicate that it is the sex hormone estrogen that may cause the valves in veins to weaken. Estrogen may increase during pregnancy, as a result of hormonal birth control, or a result of hormonal therapy during perimenopause.
It is no secret that smoking is harmful to the body. One of the effects of the nicotine in cigarettes is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries. When there is less space for blood to travel through the venous system, the body must work harder to function properly, including the valves in the veins. The extra work taxes the valves and can lead to malfunction.
It may not be possible to eliminate all risks for varicose veins and spider veins. It is possible to reduce them, though, and to treat malfunctioning veins if they do occur. To learn more about the vein treatments available in our Los Angeles vein clinic, call (818) 325-0400.