Varicose veins are currently a problem of 25 million Americans. That makes it one of the most common chronic conditions in North America. In fact, more people lose their jobs as a result of chronic vein disorders than serious artery diseases! Many factors cause varicose veins – increasing age, heredity, multiple pregnancies, etc., but lately one condition has not only contributed as the cause, but also made it harder to diagnose and treat varicose veins – obesity.
Obesity is now defined as a complex disorder which involves excessive amounts of body fat, with the body mass index (BMI) of 30 and higher. We’ll leave aside how accurate that definition is since body mass index is not everything, sometimes top athletes can have a very high BMI and we all know their bones are covered with muscles rather than fat. Being overweight or obese can get you into a lot of trouble: type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, certain types of cancer, breathing disorders, osteoarthritis, and amongst others – varicose veins.
In many cases varicose veins are not considered a major health risk. They will not make you the queen of a beauty pageant, but you can live with them for a while without experiencing typical symptoms. If untreated though, they might get worse over time and cause swelling, aching, cramps, feeling of heaviness and restlessness in legs, and many other bothersome symptoms. In some cases, they can also develop into more serious conditions, such as blood clots and leg ulcers.
Now, that is not a pretty picture. And guess what, obese people are more prone to end up like this – with leg ulceration – than any other individual with a proper weight. The reason for it is that varicose veins at obese individuals are hiding under a thick layer of fat. It seems to be an advantage at first because those bluish rope-like veins are invisible. The feeling of tiredness and heaviness in the legs is probably already present, but most people relate the discomfort to their weight rather than a venous condition. Varicose veins usually come to mind as the underlying problem when it’s too late and the damage to the skin becomes irreversible.
Most advanced diagnostic procedures and treatments are non-invasive – that’s what makes them so convenient. You come in one day, get your treatment done within 30 minutes and you’re walking home as good as new with no downtime or discomfort. Well, my ladies, this convenience is a no-go for obese patients. The excessive amounts of fat make it much harder for the doctor to use modern non-invasive techniques. Even obese people can still get a standard surgery I hear you say? Yes, but did you know that most obese people are simply not physically fit enough to undergo a full surgery without their heart giving in halfway through? Does it feel like we’re running out of options here? Yes, indeed we are.
Too much of everything is never good, they say, and it’s dead-on when speaking about weight. Excess fat not only helps varicose veins to develop, but it also makes them harder to diagnose, monitor and treat. Nobody wants you to look like an X-ray picture, but healthy diet together with regular exercise should make it fairly easy to keep your weight in check, and your veins will thank you for it.