October 6, 2021
While there is a connection between diabetes and varicose veins, it may not be as straightforward as it seems.
Firstly, it’s worth noting that while there are many health issues linking the two conditions, diabetes doesn’t directly cause varicose veins; equally, the appearance of varicose veins doesn’t necessarily imply that you’re at risk of becoming diabetic.
However, for individuals who do suffer with both, there are shared risk factors that can make the two issues more dangerous. On the upside, what’s good for one is likely good for the other – so let’s take a closer look at how they are related and what we can do to prevent and treat them.
Diabetes is hard on the body as a whole. High blood sugar weakens the lining of blood vessels, which can lead to organ damage. This makes people with diabetes more prone to peripheral artery disease, which can cause leg pain when walking.
Weight gain is both a common cause and exacerbating factor in diabetes. If managed poorly, this can also result in a number of health issues including vascular damage, which increases the likelihood of varicose veins.
People with diabetes are also prone to poor circulation, particularly in their feet and legs. Glucose buildup can affect the nerves and arteries in the legs, putting increased stress on the veins. This can also result in significant swelling, itching, and burning. Because nerve damage is a commonly related issue, people with diabetes can miss the early warning signs of poor vein health, making it important for them to check their feet and legs on a regular basis.
When patients have both diabetes and varicose veins, there is an increased danger of further complications such as skin ulcers or infections. As mentioned, nerve damage may make these complications harder to spot, and slow healing or immunodeficiency can make infections more likely and more severe. Again, the key here is to check thoroughly and often, to engage in preventative care and to seek treatment as soon as possible.
If you suffer from diabetes, knowing how to take care of your health is key for long-term management. Luckily, maintaining regular healthy habits will not only help keep your diabetes in check; it will also help you maintain your vascular health and reduce your risk of varicose veins.
Maintain a Healthy Weight - While easier said than done, watching your weight is key to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, keeping your veins happy and reducing the risk of secondary complications.
Eat a Balanced Diet - People with diabetes should manage their diet carefully, and limit intake of sugars and carbohydrates. At the same time, eating lots of fruits and vegetables will improve your circulation.
Don’t Smoke - If you’re lucky enough to already be a non-smoker then keep it up! If you are a smoker, it’s important to know that as well as presenting many other serious risks, smoking damages the lining of your blood vessels. This is just one more reason to finally kick the habit.
Stay Hydrated - Drink plenty of water throughout the day: it’s great for your blood flow and the rest of your body, too. Just remember that being thirsty all the time is a sign of high blood sugar and poorly controlled diabetes.
Move - Sitting in one place for a long time can be a contributing factor to varicose veins. Even on a busy day, do you best to get up, stretch and get a little exercise whenever you can.
Elevate Your Legs - Try to raise your legs when you’re resting or sitting down. If you get the opportunity, try to raise your feet above heart level for 30 minutes.
Take Your Medicine - This one may be obvious, but taking your medicine as prescribed is key to controlling diabetes. Metformin, commonly prescribed for type 2 diabetes, can reduce the risk of developing varicose veins by 44 percent.
Living with diabetes doesn't affect your eligibility for varicose vein treatments. While you should be checking your legs and feet regularly, you should also consider a ‘duplex’ scan which will give you a much deeper look at the health of your veins.
If problems do arise then sclerotherapy as well as laser or radiofrequency ablation treatments are minimally invasive and suitable for patients with diabetes. The most important thing is to take good care of yourself, keep checking your legs and rest assured that help is always there if you need it.
Take our two-minute diagnostic test to see if you could benefit from varicose vein treatment.
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