Have you ever heard that running, especially long distances (like marathons), can actually cause spider or varicose veins? We have, but we weren’t so sure it was true. So with fall marathon season upon us, we turned to a top Phlebology (the branch of medicine that deals with veins and their diseases) expert, Dr. Luis Navarro of the Vein Treatment Center in New York City to clear up any confusion for all of the runners out there who are training for races—big or small.
Does running cause spider or varicose veins?
“Running isn’t a direct cause of spider and varicose veins; the activity is actually beneficial to the circulatory system, and the 'second heart.' The 'second heart' is a system of muscles, veins and valves in the calf and foot that work together to push deoxygenated blood back up to the heart and lungs. However, if you wear sneakers that don’t offer proper support, the impact on hard surfaces can cause veins to swell. Make sure you purchase running shoes that are properly cushioned, and built specifically for running.”
How can you prevent spider or varicose veins from appearing?
“For some people, spider and varicose veins are a hereditary disease passed along from generation to generation. If you are genetically predisposed to this condition, the veins might still develop regardless of prevention methods. The most important prevention methods include maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, and frequent exercise to ensure proper circulation. If you stand for long periods during the day, wearing compression stockings will also help improve circulation, and help blood flow through the legs.”
If you already have spider or varicose veins, what can you do about them?
“Sclerotherapy is a quick, painless treatment that gets rid of spider and small varicose veins. During the treatment, a mild chemical solution is injected into the vein causing the issue. The solution then collapses the vein, and the body reabsorbs the vein and blood, which is re-routed into a healthy vein. Varicose veins are more than a cosmetic issue; they can cause blood clots and other health risks, so it’s important to have them examined by your local venous expert. If it is determined that you have large varicose veins, there are several methods that can be used to eradicate them, including an out-patient surgical procedure known as an Endovenous Laser Ablation, foam Sclerotherapy or a phlebectomy.”
Are there other options available that don’t include a visit to a doctor’s office?
“If you have already developed spider or varicose veins, you can’t get rid of them without getting a treatment. You can disguise them with self-tanner, or relieve the uncomfortable 'heavy leg' feeling by wearing compression stockings. This will temporarily keep the blood from pooling in the veins and relieve discomfort. Also, taking a horse chestnut seed extract may relieve the discomfort and swelling associated with venous disease. Other prevention methods include maintaining a low salt, high fiber diet, keeping an eye on your weight, as obesity can stress your circulatory system and eating foods rich in antioxidants.”