How the human body can develop varicose veins
People in certain professions are more at risk of a potentially uncomfortable condition that has been around since Roman times, an expert has warned.
According to one vein specialist, nurses, hairdressers and teachers are among workers most likely to develop varicose veins.
This condition occurs when tiny valves inside the blood vessels don’t function properly, causing blood to flow backwards and pool, making them swell.
While varicose veins are often seen as a purely cosmetic problem they can also cause legs to become sore, achy and throb.
They can also increase your chances of developing blood clots, which can be extremely dangerous.
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Consultant interventional radiologist and medical director at Veincentre, Mark Bratby, warned that people who spend many hours on their feet every day are most at risk for varicose veins.
He explained: “Varicose veins are an anatomical problem. Only humans have varicose veins because we stand upright.
“The problem isn’t a new one. They have always been around, in fact there’s records of varicose veins in Roman times.
“We tend to see a lot of hairdressers, nurses and teachers in the clinic because if you’ve got a problem with your valves and then you’re on your feet all day, you’re likely to get varicose veins.”
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How to tell if you have varicose veins
The NHS describes varicose veins as “swollen and enlarged” veins that typically occur on the legs and feet.
“They may be blue or dark purple, and are often lumpy, bulging or twisted in appearance,” the health body says.
In some cases they can also cause:
- Aching, heavy and uncomfortable legs
- Swollen feet and ankles
- Burning or throbbing in your legs
- Muscle cramp in your legs, particularly at night
- Dry, itchy and thin skin over the affected vein.
If you have varicose veins you do not necessarily need to do anything about them.
However, you should speak to your GP if:
- Your varicose veins are causing you pain or discomfort
- The skin over your veins is sore and irritated
- The aching in your legs is causing irritation at night and disturbing your sleep.
How to lower your risk of varicose veins
Genetics are a key factor in whether you have varicose veins, although there are certain things people can do to improve the health of their veins, Dr Bratby said.
He said: “Keeping healthy, eating well, not eating too many ultra processed foods, looking after your weight and exercising as much as you can are all good for many reasons, including your arterial health.”
He also advised moving around every 30 minutes to keep the blood flowing and raising your legs during regular breaks.
Compression socks can also help ease symptoms.
In more extreme cases patients may wish to undergo endovenous laser ablation (EVLA), which involves destroying the affected veins from the inside with a laser.
Treatments known as sclerotherapy and ligation and stripping are also an option.
The NHS warns: “It’s unlikely you’ll receive treatment on the NHS for cosmetic reasons – you’ll have to pay for cosmetic treatment privately.”
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