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Which occupations are most often linked to varicose veins?

Source: Health News Tribune, Erik Horn — October 15, 2020


In some population groups, varicose veins are known to occur more frequently. While factors like genetics, age, and gender play a role in the likelihood of suffering from varicose veins, certain occupations are also linked to higher instances of this medical issue.


If untreated, varicose veins have the potential to cause issues like leg discomfort or leg ulcers, amongst other problems. However, most cases are simply a cosmetic issue for people who find their varicose veins unsightly. There are many non-surgical methods for reducing the appearance of varicose veins and stopping them from becoming worse.


Before we get into that, let’s take a look at how veins in the body function and why varicose veins occur in the first place


Circulating blood

Of course, most people know that veins serve as the tunnels by which blood travels around the body. All of our veins are part of a network that links back to our heart, where blood is pumped from. When you think about the placement of the heart in our chest, you realize that blood must travel to the extremities and be carried back to the heart by the veins in our arms and legs. This leads us to our next point.


Fighting against the force of gravity

The reason that varicose veins occur predominately in the legs is quite simple when you think about it; the veins need to work harder against gravity in the lower parts of the body. Our veins have valves in them that open and close to push blood back up the body without it flowing backwards. However, over time our vein valves can malfunction and become worn out. This causes some blood to flow backwards and pool in the veins, which causes the bulging that is characteristic of varicose veins. The diagram below explains this effect visually.


More movement = better circulation

There’s no better way to promote the circulation of blood throughout the body than moving it often. Your calf muscles act similarly to the heart in that they help pump blood back up your legs – so if your calves aren’t being used as often then more pressure is put on the veins to do the heavy lifting with the valves we mentioned earlier.


This leads us to why certain occupations have a higher rate of varicose veins than others. The diagram below visually explains how your calves help pump blood back to the heart.


Occupations with higher rates of varicose veins

Since activating your calves puts less pressure on your veins to pump blood back to the heart, it follows that not using your calves very often would put more pressure on your veins. This is why certain occupations where you sit or stand for long periods are more associated with varicose veins.

A few examples are:

  • Desk workers

  • Long-haul truck drivers

  • Conveyor belt factory workers

  • Some medical professionals

  • Restaurant staff

  • Retail workers

  • Hairdressers and barbers

  • Anyone who often travels by plane or car

How can you reduce the risk of varicose veins?

1. Frequent exercise

Exercise is something you should be doing anyway, but it’s very useful in fighting varicose veins because it activates your calf muscles and promotes healthier blood flow.


2. Watching your body weight

The heavier you are, the more downward pressure there is on your legs and the veins therein.


3. Limit the use of high heels

High heels cause calves to contract and makes them less useful in pumping blood upwards. Wearing high heels too often can contribute to the occurrence of varicose veins.


4. Try compression stockings

Compression stockings may look like Grandma’s pantyhose at first glance, but they can actually be far more modern and subtle than you think. Compression stockings are one of the most effective non-surgical treatments for reducing varicose veins. The compression simply adds light pressure to our veins so that more blood flows up the legs.


What are the signs of varicose veins?

Varicose veins are mostly (but not always) a cosmetic issue and are therefore very noticeable when they manifest. Swelling in the legs can also be a symptom, as well as aching or a general feeling of heaviness in the legs compared to the rest of the body.

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