Many people ask, “How do I get varicose veins?”
Veins that carry blood up to the heart have valves that lock, preventing blood from running back down. Veins rely on surrounding muscles which contract, forcing the blood to push and open the valves. When the muscle relaxes, the valves lock, when functioning properly. Those valves can weaken (due to aging or genetic predisposition) allowing the blood to flow in both directions and swell the vein. During pregnancy, when blood volume increases by approximately 20%, veins expand, and new ones form that may or may not disappear after a woman gives birth.
The calf muscle pump is the driving force of venous return in the legs often referred to as the distal heart.
There are Many Contributing Factors to Venous Disease
- Sedentary Lifestyle
- Frequent Standing
- Hormonal Changes
- Oral Contraceptives
Many doctors agree that Medical Compression Stockings can be “leg lifesavers”.
DEEP VEIN THROMBOSIS (DVT)
Deep Vein Thrombosis – (DVT) – is a common but under-diagnosed medical condition that occurs when a thrombus (blood clot) forms in one of the large veins leading to either partially or completely blocked circulation.
Blood clots may form after an injury, surgery or any prolonged sitting or cramped position that obstructs blood flow. This obstruction causes blood to reflux, which increases the venous pressure. Edema (swelling) is a direct result.
A Pulmonary Embolism is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that is not easily detected by physical examination and is a direct consequence of acute DVT.
A blood clot is propelled out of the vein (via muscle contraction) and migrates through the heart to the lungs, where it blocks a pulmonary artery or one of its branches. The size and resting place of this clot may cause chest pain, sweating and shortness of breath. If the clot is large enough to completely block one or more of the vessels that supply the lungs with blood, it could cause a cardiac arrest and sudden death. (1)
(1) American Public Health Association White Paper: Deep-Vein Thrombosis: Advancing Awareness to Protect Patient Lives, February 26, 2003 and Hirsh J, Hoak J. Management of deep-vein thrombsosis and pulmonary embolism. A statement for healthcare professionals from the Council on Thrombosis (in consultation with the Council on Cardiovascular Radiology), American Heart Association. Circulation. 1996;93:2212-2245.
Acting Surgeon General Issues “Call To Action To Prevent DVT And Pulmonary Embolism”
How Do Medical Compression Stockings Work?
Blood flows faster in compressed veins that in dilated ones. By wearing graduated compression stockings, a light pressure is applied to maintain blood flow velocity, keep blood from pooling, and prevent swelling.
Compression must be graduated. This means the compression is strongest at the ankle and decreasing up the leg. Only stockings meeting this requirement will be effective in preventing the development of edema (swelling) which results when high venous pressure forces serum through the vein wall into the surrounding tissue, while counteracting the forces of gravity.
SIGVARIS makes ultra-sheer and opaque stockings as well as socks, and all are latex-free. Some styles are made with cool and comfortable Supima cotton. These cotton products wick away moisture and are comfortable and diabetic-friendly.
Leg Problems in Pregnancy
Compression stockings are commonly suggested in pregnancy to prevent or decrease leg problems.
Some of the common symptoms in pregnancy are:
- varicose veins
- leg cramps during the night
- heaviness and tension in the legs
- swelling of feet and/or legs
- tingling sensation in the legs
Factors that may contribute to these symptoms:
- Heredity of venous problems
- if there was a venous condition present before pregnancy
- if it is the second pregnancy or greater
- sitting or standing for prolonged periods
- hot weather
We know that during pregnancy the normal blood volume increases by a total of about 20%, because both the uterus and the fetus have to be supplied. This is the natural way that the pregnant person’s respiration and her heart adjust to the circulation of the fetus with increased output at an early stage. However, as soon as the pregnant person stands up, gravity takes over and this increased blood volume increases in the legs as well. Vessels become more dilated with the increased volume. The hormones that prevent the uterus from contracting before the birth time also affect the blood vessels which become more “slack”. This means that while standing, the veins take up a much greater volume of blood. Circulation then becomes slower.
With compression, the veins become less dilated, and more blood can be pushed back up to the heart. This means that varicose veins, swelling and discomfort can be prevented.