Varicose vein myths, or the vascular disorder that cause swollen and twisted veins, ruin not only your looks but your health as well. They are both unsightly and painful, and sufferers would do anything to get rid of them. Unfortunately, patients are likely to encounter several false information about varicose veins and its treatment, from old wive’s tales passed on to generations to inaccurate “facts” spreading on the web.
To best understand how you can treat the condition, you have to separate the myths about the vascular disease from the reality. Here are six common varicose vein myths you need to stop believing in.
1. Crossing Your Legs Causes Varicose Veins
If you have watched The Princess Diaries, you may have learned that a proper lady never crosses her legs at her knee. Apart from being a “no-no” in regal postures, crossing your legs have been associated with certain medical issues – and varicose veins aren’t part of them.
The information that is crossing your legs can cause varicose veins falls into the medical myths category. Luis Navarro, MD, founder and medical director of The Vein Treatment Center in NYC explains that varicose veins, which results from the pooling of blood in the veins, are usually caused by prolonged standing and sitting. Other factors like heredity, obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, pregnancy, and hormonal birth control restrict the circulation and can also increase the risk.
Don’t calm down yet. While sitting with legs crossed won’t necessarily give you hideous leg veins, the habit can cause other issues like nerve damage, poor posture, and high blood pressure.
2. Men don’t Suffer From Varicose Veins
Due to women-related factors like pregnancy, hormonal birth control and standing (often wearing heels), women are likely to develop varicose veins, but it doesn’t mean men can’t get them too. Maybe they just don’t talk about their legs over a beer or a basketball game.
According to Vein Clinics of America, roughly 45 percent of men suffer from venous diseases. Factors like obesity, spraining legs due to sports, and other traumas and injuries can cause varicose veins and spider veins. To most men, it seems like a “no big deal” and they are less likely to seek treatment. The unsightly veins can be tolerated but other painful symptoms like fatigue, aching, itching, burning, swelling, tingling, throbbing and cramping should never be ignored.
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3. Varicose Veins are Only a Cosmetic Issue
One of the most common misconceptions about varicose and spider veins is they’re just an aesthetic concern. Most experts agree that these unsightly venous diseases aren’t as dangerous as other health issues, but it doesn’t mean they should be ignored.
Firstly, varicose veins can be painful. Secondly, they could be a subtle warning sign of a more threatening, long-term health risk, including blood clots, poor circulation, leg swelling, bleeding, discoloration, and deep vein thrombosis. According to Lindsey Bordone, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Columbia University Medical Center NYC, you should see a doctor if your legs feel heavy or if they sore at the end of the day or during physical activity.
4. They are Normal Signs of Aging
Though regarded as a “grandma disease,” varicose veins aren’t necessarily inevitable signs of aging. It also doesn’t mean that young people can’t get them.
Aging increases the risk and can worsen the condition, though not everyone gets them. A grandma with a healthy lifestyle can turn 70 without getting them while a young adult whose work involves prolonged standing can get them as early as 18. As we have mentioned, other more potent factors like genetics, pregnancy, hormone levels, and poor lifestyle can significantly contribute to the development of varicose veins.
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5. Varicose Veins and Spider Veins are the Same
They do have certain things in common, but they aren’t the same. Spider veins are the small, thin blue blood vessels that are visible on the surface of the skin. They have dilated veins which are usually harmless, but they can be a symptom of poor blood circulation and varicose vein formation.
Varicose veins, on the other hand, are like little snakes that pop inside your legs. They are stretched-out veins where the blood has pooled, making them thick and “ropey” They usually occur when one-way valves don’t work properly. It’s not uncommon to see both cases in one leg since the pressure from the varicose veins can cause spider veins to occur, especially in the ankle area.
Using compression stockings will be of great help, but if the swelling or aching persist, a professional assessment is suggested.
6. The Treatment for Varicose Veins is Painful
The medieval-sounding “stripping” procedures are all buried in the past. In fact, going to the dentist may seem more painful than going to a vein specialist.
Today, doctors use lasers to remove and seal shut bulging veins. For minor cases, the vein specialist might suggest sclerotherapy, a chemical injection that destroys the damaged veins. The medical procedures are quick, invasive, and definitely with no knives involved.
The veins that are destroyed and removed will not return, although new spider or varicose veins may develop over a period of years. The formation of varicose veins can be minimized with a healthy diet and regular exercise, compression stockings, and proper posture.