Varicose vein myths and facts
Patients ask me all of the time, “How can I prevent varicose veins?”
The truth is hard to swallow.
varicose vein prevention with exerciseIt is hard to accept because we feel helpless. We want control in our lives. We want to be able to change things that are wrong. If we are overweight, there is a self-help solution. Diet and exercise are the answer. That advice also works for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some forms of high blood pressure. For abnormal veins, that advice will not work.
Genetics are the Main Cause of Varicose Veins
Just to be clear, with varicose veins, the cause is usually genetic. You can’t change your genetics no matter what you do. There is no cream, medicine, diet, exercise or lifestyle advice that anyone can give you that will change what is genetically programmed into your DNA from the time that you were born. Varicose vein disease occurs for a variety of reasons. Some of the causes of vein disease, such as your gender, and your family history, can’t be changed. Pregnancy and being overweight will just speed up your genetic predisposition toward venous disease. That means that your varicose veins will just develop at a younger age than if those risk factors were not involved.
However, you can make changes to another vein disease risk factor. You can change your lifestyle. People are more likely to experience diseased veins earlier if they are sedentary, overweight, or spend long periods of time sitting or standing in the same position.
To Prevent Something Just Eliminate the Cause
Right? If we all walked on our hands, no one would get varicose veins. There are only rare cases of varicose veins in animals that walk on all four legs. Gravity does contribute to the problem. Standing does increase the pressure in our leg veins. However, there are many millions of people who work and stand all day long and don’t have an abnormal vein in their legs. Therefore, you can’t blame it all on standing in one place for long periods of time. Let’s clear up a three myths that are just ludicrous as a cause for varicose veins.
Three Wild Myths of the Causes of Varicose Veins:
You may have heard a few of these. I don’t understand how they are spread. It’s just crazy. Avoiding the following things will not prevent varicose veins at all.
Walking on concrete
Wearing tight belts and clothing
Crossing your legs
Other common recommendations to treat varicose veins are just a like band-aide. They cover up the symptoms. However, the fix is only temporary. They don’t get to the root of the problem.
Can Wearing Compression Support Stockings Prevent Varicose Veins?
The next piece of advice is easy to give but hard to take. Compression stockings are another form of pain-free vein treatment. Considered a form of conservative treatment, compression stockings are designed to assist your veins in transporting blood out of your ankles and legs. These compression stockings apply graduated pressure to your ankles and calves and push blood upwards toward your heart. Veins should be like one-way streets. Blood should go only in one direction. That direction is toward your heart. Compression stockings keep blood from flowing back towards your feet. They are available in a variety of styles, models and colors. The problem is that compression stockings don’t fix the underlying problem either.
Faulty check valves cause varicose veins
Faulty “check valves” (just like the check valves in pipes) are the cause of the problem. These valves are located inside of your veins. When the valves don’t close, the blood backs up in the wrong direction. That is inherited. That is the reason that there is no varicose vein prevention. None of the previously mentioned solutions addresses the abnormal valves inside of your veins. Exercise pushes blood back to your heart. That relieves the pressure and symptoms in your abnormal veins. Exercise cannot fix the check valves in your veins either. These valves prevent blood from flowing in the wrong direction toward your feet. You can’t change those valves by exercising, losing weight, taking medicine, massage or dieting. Once the valves are malfunctioning, nothing that you try to do will fix them. The valves will always be abnormal. As time passes, the valves will stretch more. Your veins will inevitably enlarge. At one time, medical professionals recommended support stockings to prevent abnormal varicose veins. No more. If you have the genetics for varicose veins, that is the bad news.
The good news is that today’s vein treatments are minimally invasive.
Minimally Invasive Varicose Veins Treatment are the Answer for Most People with Varicose Veins
With modern varicose vein treatment, there are:
no hospital stays
no need for general anesthesia
no lengthy recovery periods
Minimally invasive treatments such as sclerotherapy, ambulatory phlebectomy, and endovenous laser treatment address problematic veins through a very small needle or catheter. They are performed in the comfort of our vein center. Most patients can return to their regular activities immediately after their treatment.
Can Lifestyle Changes Prevent Varicose Veins?
If you research varicose vein prevention, you will see the following advice with a caveat. Lifestyle changes. Let’s be honest. People cannot comply with these recommendations. Some vein specialists encourage patients to make changes in their lifestyle before they consider vein surgery. This approach is called conservative medical management. This approach is pushed by most insurance companies.
However, for patients who have a low tolerance for discomfort or who are deathly afraid of needles, it is their only choice.
Conservative treatment does not require an incision, a needle stick, injection or any type of minimally invasive option. Instead, you receive support to help you live a lifestyle conducive to minimize the pressure inside your abnormal veins. For most people, this is unsatisfactory advice. Wearing heavy, hot, and uncomfortable compression support stockings is not an option. Elevating your legs when you are not walking is not practical. Ninety-nine per cent of people, in my opinion, will not wear compression stockings for the rest of their lives. The internet is chock full of advice of worthless home remedies. The bottom line is that they don’t work.
Will Insurance Companies Cover Varicose Vein Prevention?
Not for varicose veins!
Insurance companies make more money if they don’t reimburse for preventative vein care. Believe me. They have crunched the numbers. Many people change insurance companies quite often these days. When you do, they save money when they deny preventative care. Maybe you will move. They save money again.
Patients tell me that you’d think that prevention would save the government and insurance company’s money. However, the explosion of the number of vein center treatment procedures has caused insurance companies to try to “staunch the flow’” of dollars out of their pockets.
With the increasing vein center treatment, insurance companies have really cracked down on which veins that they will cover. Because of the “bad eggs” they have overreacted and deny coverage in many cases arbitrarily.
Frequently, I have to speak to a doctor who works for an insurance company to get my patient’s necessary vein procedure covered. That is called a peer-to-peer review. Insurance company doctors do not deviate from the list of approved procedures or they will lose their job. They do not budge. The trend is for less and less coverage in order to try to cut costs. These insurance company doctors are given a laundry list of approved procedures. It is becoming more limited to save them more money. Practicing doctors cannot always do what they believe is the best treatment for their patient any longer.
The insurance companies have all of the power to decide which vein care treatment you will or will not get. Many times their decision is not in your best interest. Because of increasing insurance companies restrictions, treating venous disease is becoming like trying to play golf with only a driver and a putter.The truth is that insurance companies don’t care about varicose vein prevention at all. If your veins aren’t a specified minimum size, they will not pay for their treatment. Even if they cause pain! The sad thing is that your abnormal veins will inevitably later get bigger and hurt more. Bigger veins are more difficult and more risky to treat.
If there is no varicose vein prevention and you can’t keep them from getting bigger, what can you do?
Remember, bulging veins in your legs are not normal. You must know they will not go away if you try to ignore them. They will definitely get worse. They will be more difficult and more painful to treat later.