Is My Job Giving Me Varicose Veins?
Chances are good that you are familiar with varicose veins—that bulging, twisting vein condition that causes leg pain, swelling, feelings of leg heaviness, aching, restless legs, and cramping. Some people experience more significant varicose vein-related leg problems, such as ulcers, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and blood clots.
According to the AHA Journal “Circulation,” approximately 23 percent of adults in the United States experience varicose veins. Include spider veins (a mild variation of varicose veins) in this count, and a full 80 percent of American men and 85 percent of American women have the symptoms associated with chronic venous insufficiency (vein disease).
What causes varicose veins?
While advanced age, pregnancy, being female, obesity, being inactive, and family history are among the risk factors for varicose veins, prolonged standing at work may be a more important risk factor for varicose veins and nocturnal leg cramps (restless legs) than biological differences between women and men.1
As part of the circulatory system, veins return oxygen-poor blood from throughout the body back to the heart to reoxygenate. Working against gravity, leg veins are equipped with tiny one-way valves that open as blood flows toward the heart, then close to stop blood from flowing backward. If these valves become weak or damaged, blood can flow backward and pool in the veins, causing stretched, swollen veins, swelling, itching, and skin conditions.
Prolonged standing or sitting contributes to vein disease
A job requiring long standing or sitting periods can impede circulation by weakening the all-important valves that support blood movement from the lower limbs. The following are examples of jobs that put people at risk for varicose veins.
Jobs that require standing for long periods:
- Factory workers
- Construction workers
- Retail workers
- Police and correction officers
Jobs that require sitting for long periods:
- Office workers
- Bus, taxi, and Uber/Lyft drivers
- Graphic designers
- Software engineers
How to prevent work-related varicose veins
If your job requires that you sit or stand for long periods, all hope is not lost! By committing to being “vein smart” and making a few simple changes, you can mitigate the damage to your leg veins and reduce your risk of painful vein problems.
Avoid tight-fitting clothes and high heels
Tight garments can restrict blood flow to the lower extremities and worsen varicose veins. Stay clear of clothes restricting the abdomen, such as girdles, skinny jeans, and leggings. Choose comfortable, loose-fitting clothes and low-heeled, supportive shoes that encourage the natural pump action of the calf muscles.
Wear compression stockings
While it might seem counter-intuitive, professionally fitted compression socks provide the proper amount of “squeeze” in just the right places in the tissues beneath the skin to encourage blood flow and ease discomfort and swelling.
Even if confided on an assembly line or behind a register, change your standing position by shifting your weight every 20 minutes from leg to leg. When possible, sit down and put your feet up.
Calf muscles are nature’s blood pumps. Walking and other low-impact exercises, such as biking and swimming, activate these muscles, stimulating the legs’ circulation against gravity. Keeping calf muscles strong by walking at least 30 minutes five days a week is like “money in the vein bank!”
Don’t cross your legs while sitting.
This position while sitting puts unnecessary pressure on leg veins and makes it more difficult for blood to circulate. Sitting up straight and using a footstool to elevate the legs is the more vein-friendly sitting position. At least every half hour, exercise your legs by doing ankle circles or foot pedals for a few minutes to get the blood moving.
When to visit a vein specialist
While it is normal for legs to be tired at the end of a long workday, pain, swelling, heaviness, cramping, or bulging varicose veins are not normal and should not be considered an acceptable occupational hazard. The board-certified vein specialists at Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) can assess your veins and determine if varicose vein treatment is right for you. We know you’re busy; that’s why your CVR vein doctor conducts a thorough health history and a venous ultrasound to “see” your vein function during one appointment. You will leave this visit understanding your vein condition and with a treatment plan in hand.
All vein treatment options at CVR are minimally invasive and performed as an outpatient. Treatments take an hour or less and are covered by most insurance plans. Patients return to their normal activities immediately with few restrictions.
With 100+ vein clinic locations nationwide, there’s sure to be a CVR vein center near you! To schedule a vein appointment, call 800-FIX-LEGS (800-349-5347) to speak to a helpful Patient Services Representative. You can also book online HERE.
- Journal of Ergonomics, Relationship between prolonged standing and symptoms of varicose veins and nocturnal leg cramps among women and men, Volume 55, 2012 - Issue 2: Special Issue: Gender, Women's Work and Ergonomics, published online: 17 Aug 2011