Does Being Overweight Contribute To Varicose Veins?

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 40% of adults in the U.S. qualify as obese. Tommy Tomlinson is on the extreme end of those statistics, weighing 460 pounds. In his book, The Elephant In the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest To Get Smaller In A Growing America, Tomlinson writes about how his weight affects his veins and his legs:

“Varicose veins bulge from my thighs. My calves and shins are rust-colored and shiny from a condition called chronic venous insufficiency. Here’s what it means: The veins in my legs aren’t strong enough to push all the blood back up toward my heart, so it pools in my capillaries and forces little dots of iron up under my skin. The veins are failing because of the pressure caused by 460 pounds pushing downward with every step I take.”

While Tomlinson knew his weight was extreme and unhealthy, it was his sister’s death from venous disease that gave him a wake up call. He wrote, “Brenda was 63 and weighed well north of 200 pounds. Her feet swelled so much that she could hardly wear shoes. Her thighs cramped so bad, with so little warning, that she was afraid to drive. For years, she dealt with sores on her legs caused by the swelling. They leaked fluid and wouldn’t heal. In late December, one of the sores got infected . . . My only sister died a terrible death from something connected to her weight.”

How Weight Affects Our Veins 

Varicose veins are not typically life-threatening, but for about 10% of those who have them, complications from untreated varicose veins can cause potentially dangerous and, in some cases, life-threatening medical issues (See Are Varicose Veins Dangerous).

The connection between weight gain and high blood pressure within our arteries is well known, but weight also adds to pressure not just in our arteries but also in our veins. This pressure finds a natural outlet by squeezing blood backward down varicose veins past failed one-way valves in our veins. The backward flow raises the pressure in the veins and distends, or stretches, the vein wall so that a previously normal vein becomes varicose, or enlarged. 

Over time, untreated varicose veins can lead to further complications, such as skin discoloration and sores or a rash that are difficult to heal. They can also lead to a blood clot deep within the veins, which is a serious medical condition that requires immediate medical treatment and could be a life-threatening condition, as well as clotting within the superficial veins. 

Aside from those more serious complications, varicose veins also typically cause a myriad of uncomfortable symptoms, including chronic swelling, pain, aching, throbbing, itchiness, restless legs, or a heavy sensation in the legs.

While many factors can increase your risk for varicose veins—including family history, age, gender, pregnancy, and sedentary lifestyle—being overweight or obese is a well-documented factor in developing varicose veins.

Keep in mind that varicose veins are a chronic and progressive disease which will not get better on its own. If you’re carrying more weight than your body is built to comfortably support, chances are high that your varicose vein symptoms will be worse, especially over time if left untreated. 

Regardless of whether you’re concerned about your weight or not, if you’re suffering from leg pain, or swelling, aching, heavy, tired, or restless legs, it’s time to consider getting rid of your varicose veins once and for all. Treatment of varicose veins is quicker and easier than it’s ever been, and is typically covered by insurance. Check out our Free Infographic Showing Our Simple Yet Thorough 5 Step Process.

East Tennessee Vein Clinic is offering free screenings for varicose veins through July and August.

Dr. Douglass and the staff at East Tennessee Vein Clinic are solely dedicated to the treatment of varicose veins, and lead the region in experience and expertise of vein treatments. We treat veins differently than other clinics because of our comprehensive attention to treating the root cause and full extent of each patient’s vein disease. Comprehensive vein treatment is all we do, every day, all day, since 2001.

Visit us online at East Tennessee Vein Clinic, or call 866-281-VEIN, or request an appointment online today. We are offering free vein screenings through the month of July, just mention the offer when making an appointment.

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