Varicose veins are a common disease

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13. March 2018

Overweight, lack of exercise & Co.: Modern lifestyle puts pressure on veins

Millions of Germans suffer from spider veins and varicose veins. But why are the legs of some people severely affected even at a young age, whereas others never have such problems? What is certain is that in addition to age and our genes, our lifestyle also influences the development and progression of venous diseases. The good news is that already existing spider veins or varicose veins can be removed gently with sclerotherapy.

It is not easy for our legs: day-in and day-out thousands of litres of blood flow through the veins towards the heart. Healthy connective tissue and well-formed muscles help to preserve the proper functioning of the valves in our veins and thereby prevent the veins from becoming noticeably enlarged and visibly protruding. However, many factors can interfere with the functioning of veins so that they no longer withstand the pressure and spider veins or varicose veins are formed.

Connective tissue and veins weaken with age

One of the things that determine whether our legs show conspicuous veins or dazzle through an unblemished appearance is our genetic disposition. But age is also of great importance: as the years go by, the connective tissue visibly loses elasticity, which also weakens the veins. Admittedly it is not rare for even young people to show spider veins. Nevertheless, there is scarcely any under 20 year old who complains of leg problems such as varicose veins and swollen legs, whereas among the over 70 year olds, almost one in two is affected. By nature, women’s connective tissue is more loosely cross-linked and their skin is thinner and softer than men’s, and this also favours not only typically female “problem areas” but also diseases of the veins. In addition, the flow of blood, the state of the blood vessels and the water content of the tissues are more strongly affected by hormones in women. Marked fluctuations in this sensitive framework occur during pregnancy or the menopause and these variations can also have an impact on veins.

Harmful external influences and lifestyle diseases

There is no question that, in addition to age and gender, other external factors also pay tribute in the  long-term – especially when these influences mount up. Smoking, taking the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy during the menopause can visibly affect the leg veins, reduce the blood flow and increase the risk of blocked vessels. A further threat is being grossly overweight or obese; studies have shown that this greatly increases the risk of all types of venous disease – probably because the speed of the blood flow is reduced by the corpulence and blood vessels are put under increased strain. What is more, someone who is seriously overweight often takes less exercise than slim people. This leads to the leg muscles becoming underused and weak instead of energetically supporting the blood flow to the heart. To make matters worse, other lifestyle diseases are often also present: laziness and overabundant eating are known to promote high blood pressure, diabetes and disorders of lipid metabolism, which in turn can negatively affect the veins and connective tissue. Since it has been demonstrated that people in the industrialised nations are becoming increasingly overweight, scientists are also warning of a further increase in venous diseases in the population: a recent study emphasised the connection between obesity and varicose veins.

Many risk factors for the blood vessels can be fought against

Obviously we cannot change our genetic disposition, age or gender. But there are many things we can do to protect ourselves from venous diseases. By avoiding harmful external influences and following a lifestyle that promotes venous health, spider veins and varicose veins can be  prevented and well-being appreciably increased. The rule is that everything that strengthens muscles and connective tissue is also good for the veins. The ideal training for blood vessels is regular endurance sport such as cycling, hiking or walking. Exercise activates the so-called muscle pumps that play a key role in transporting the blood from the legs to the heart. Sport also boosts the supply of oxygen and the burning of fat and tightens the connective tissue. After a long day working in a shop or office, there is nothing better than swimming, because water pressure and the cold stimulus together act like a massage for tired and heavy legs. Sensible eating also helps ensure fit veins. Our diet should be low in fat, salt and sugar but rich in unprocessed plant-based foods. Lastly, fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain products, pulses, nuts and seeds provide all sorts of vitamins and minerals that are good for veins and for connective tissue.

A phlebologist is the person to contact about venous diseases

There are many good reasons to pay attention to our legs, to take any changes to the veins seriously and to get them treated if necessary. Firstly, because spider veins and varicose veins considerably spoil the appearance of our legs. Secondly, these abnormalities have a tendency to spread and this can be associated with increasing symptoms and secondary problems. The person that those affected should contact is a vein specialist or phlebologist, i.e. a doctor specialising in the treatment of venous diseases. To deal with unsightly bulging veins they can offer the option of sclerotherapy, which is a gentle procedure and suitable for everyday use in patients of any age. Sclerotherapy is a particularly good treatment option for the increasing number of people who are greatly overweight. This is because surgical methods of treating varicose veins often pose a considerable burden for these patients, due to unfavourable physical conditions, possible accompanying diseases and delayed wound healing.

Sclerotherapy removes varicose veins gently but effectively

This is because, in contrast to surgical interventions, sclerotherapy is carried out without general anaesthesia or invasive surgery. Instead, a sclerosing agent containing the active ingredient polidocanol is injected into the affected veins in an outpatient procedure. The treated veins then seal themselves off and are broken down by the body itself in the following weeks. A sclerotherapy session takes only about 30 minutes and is almost pain-free. Patients can therefore go straight back to work, without needing to take time off, and can move around without any restrictions.
Numerous studies have confirmed that sclerotherapy is effective and well-tolerated. Specialists in venous diseases have been successfully using the technique for about 50 years, both for spider veins and also for larger varicose veins.
Further extensive information and useful tips about spider veins and varicose veins can be found on the internet under


Tip: First aid for tired and heavy legs

If you cannot plan or do not wish to include a fixed time for sport in your life, then for the sake of your veins you should do exercises every now and then. For example, stand on the tips of your toes and bob up and down several times a day. This will stimulate your circulation and give your legs “a boost”, whether at home when cleaning your teeth, at the bus stop on the way to work, in the office itself or in the evening at the supermarket check-out when shopping.

Author: Sophia Post