Does crossing your legs cause varicose veins? Read more about the myths of this vascular problem

Jornal O Estado de S Paulo, E Mais | 03/11/2018
Varicose veins affect 50% of women, and cause more than aesthetic issues.

Varicose veins affect about 50% of women and cause more than aesthetic issues, may affect quality of life and are even one of the main causes of work leave in Brazil. Even with so many cases, varicose veins are still surrounded by doubt and myths, which may prevent an early diagnosis. We talked to vascular surgeons Caio Focássio and Ivan Casella, in order to shed some light on the common knowledge on varicose veins. 

First of all, it should be noted that the actual causes for varicose veins are not yet clear. The genetic factor, in other worlds, a predisposition to the issue, is one of the identified causes. “Some people have varicose veins, regardless of circumstance. In case of a particularly strong genetic predisposition, even without any other risk factor or conduct, inheriting the issue is likely”, explains Ivan Casella. “There is no clear-cut formula for preventing: during summer, it is more noticeable, as it is normal that blood vessels are more dilated for control of body heat and increased liquid consumption”, the doctor adds.

Among the most common symptoms of varicose veins are pain, weariness and leg swelling, particularly in the ankle region. “The skin becomes blemished, and in extreme situations, even injuries or ulcers may occur, which is highly painful and difficult to heal”, he explains.

One of the most common myths about varicose veins is that crossing your legs may cause them, which is not true. Crossing your legs is not the reason that causes varicose veins. According to Caio Focássio, spending too much time in one position - either standing or sitting down - and physical inactivity contribute greatly to the occurrence of varicose veins. “People that barely move are more prone to experiencing varicose veins, since venous return becomes more difficult. The calf needs to be stimulated and strengthened, so that it is able to send the blood back to the heart, and then the individual does not move, it is unable to contract and assist in venous return”, says the doctor.

Excessive use of high heels may also contribute to the occurrence of varicose veins. “Continuous use of high heels leads to changes in physiology and the natural state in which the blood returns to the heart, which may also be an issue”, Ivan Casella adds. Dr. Focássio also says that the incomplete step caused by the high heels affect blood flow and requires more vascular effort, which may cause varicose veins. “This also causes the footstep to be incomplete. Thus, the blood is unable to flow well and may cause varicose veins”, he explains.

For women, use of birth control medication and pregnancy are also factors that contribute to the occurrence of varicose veins. “Natural or orally ingested estrogen, such as in contraceptive medication, increases vascular capillarity, which may possibly be associated to causing varicose veins”, Casella states.

Although there is no final solution, a series of treatments may put an end to more severe occurrences, and also palliative treatments work towards halting the advancement of the disease. “Sclerotherapy is the technical term for drying out the varicose veins; a particular liquid is injected to the location which dries varicose veins from the inside”, explains Dr. Casella.  “Elastic or compression stockings are excellent in containing the disease and preventing it from spreading”, he completes.
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