As November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, it’s a good idea to talk about this challenging and complex disease and its impact on our overall well-being, in particular our vascular health.
Here are the facts:
- The CDC estimates that 37 million Americans have diabetes – that’s roughly 1 in every 10 people.
- A further 93 million (1 in 3 people), have what’s known as pre-diabetes. This is a precursor to diabetes where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough for someone to be diagnosed as diabetic.
- Of adults who have been diagnosed with diabetes, 73% have high blood pressure (hypertension).
So, is there a link between varicose veins and diabetes?
Here’s what we know…
Medical researchers know that there’s a link between diabetes and high blood pressure (see the stat above). So, when blood pressure is high, it forces the heart to work harder to pump blood to the rest of the body. Over time, the force and friction of rapid blood flow from the heart and down through the venous system of the lower body can cause damage or tearing of the delicate tissues inside the artery.
At the same time, fatty deposits start to collect on those tears causing a build-up known as arterial plaque (atherosclerosis).
The more the plaque collects, the narrower the artery walls get. The narrower the walls, the faster the blood is forced through.
This phenomenon (known as venous hypertension) is known to damage the vein valves used to control the flow and direction of blood.
So, how does venous hypertension trigger varicose veins?
When vein valves are damaged, they prevent the blood from traveling upward and back toward the heart. As gravity takes hold, blood accumulates in the lower limb’s superficial capillaries and vessels located near the surface of the skin, resulting in what we commonly know as varicose veins.
Okay, but what about the link between diabetes and varicose veins?
Firstly, it’s important to note that varicose veins aren’t always a byproduct or symptom of diabetes, and likewise, getting varicose veins doesn’t necessarily mean that someone will have type I or type II diabetes.
However, there does appear to be a link (albeit a tenuous one) between:
- Diabetes - raised blood pressure
- High blood pressure - damaged vein values
- Damaged venous valves – varicose veins.
To back this up further, studies reveal that varicose veins are of higher prevalence in the Western world. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health indicate that the typical Western diet - one high in salts, sugars, processed meats and artificially sweetened foods, increases the chance of developing type II diabetes.
Take from that what you will, but one thing’s for sure, diabetes is a complex and all-encompassing disease that affects many aspects of our overall health, including (probably) the onset of varicose veins.
Preventing and managing varicose veins with diabetes
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes and are concerned about the onset of varicose veins, there are key strategies you can adopt to prevent or manage them.
Let’s take a look…
Controlling blood sugar
Keeping blood sugar levels at a healthy range is vital and helps delay or prevent diabetes-related complications. Regular glucose monitoring can also prevent damage to blood vessels that may otherwise materialize in the form of varicose veins.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Being overweight increases the risk of type II diabetes, fact! But also, obesity escalates the risk of high blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces pressure on veins and this may show in a reduction in vascular swelling.
While exercise won’t eradicate varicose veins it can make them more comfortable to live with. Perhaps more importantly, if you have diabetes, being active makes the body more sensitive to insulin. This is the natural hormone that turns sugar into energy. The right levels of insulin can help to better manage diabetes and improve problematic varicose veins by enhancing blood circulation and toning muscles.
Varicose veins and diabetes – Final thoughts
Understanding the possible connection between diabetes and varicose veins can help in the early detection and prevention of both problems.
While diabetes brings its own set of unique challenges, managing blood sugar levels, maintaining a healthy weight, and staying active can reduce the symptoms of diabetes, but also, these steps can help in the fight against unsightly varicose veins and their associated discomfort.
If you are concerned about varicose veins and have been diagnosed with diabetes, consult with your healthcare provider to create a plan that addresses both. They may suggest a visit to an endovascular specialist like Dr Akinwande here at MINT.
Dr. A and his team use the latest non-invasive, non-surgical treatments like sclerotherapy and vein ablation to eradicate varicose and spider veins with minimal downtime.
So, don’t suffer with unsightly or problematic veins. Schedule a consultation at a convenient MINT location near you today!