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Those bulging veins on your legs? They’re not just a cosmetic problem. They’re a sign of middle- to late-stage Chronic Venous Disease (CVD), says Dr Wong Choo Mok, a general practitioner at Public Medical Clinic & Surgery.
He adds: “Patients should consult their doctors as soon as they start experiencing chronic leg pain or heaviness – early warning signs of CVD. Most of my patients do not consult me until they have visible varicose veins.”
CVD occurs when the veins in the legs cannot efficiently carry blood towards the heart, but instead let the blood flow backwards and pool in the legs and feet. This results in increased pressure in the veins, which can lead to leg heaviness, unsightly veins, changes in skin colour, recurrent skin infections and even, chronic ulcers.
Dr John Tan, consultant vascular surgeon at The Vein Clinic in Singapore, says the early warning signs of CVD include “painful legs, heavy legs, swelling sensations, burning sensations and night cramps”.
If left untreated until its later stages, you may need surgery for CVD. But when caught early, you may only need to do leg-elevation exercises, wear compression stockings, take oral medication, or go for minimally invasive laser surgery.
Here’s what you can do to cut your risk of developing CVD and varicose veins.
1. Avoid wearing tight clothing like skinny jeans
Tight clothing hinders blood circulation, which can weaken the vein valves in your legs – and weak valves are what cause the blood to flow backwards.
2. Wear high heels only occasionally
Wearing high heels every day, all day, causes your calf muscles shorten and tighten, resulting in poorer blood circulation and weaker vein valves. Vary your heel height every day, and wear flats often. When you do wear your high heels, remove them regularly throughout the day to stretch your legs.
3. Move about
Standing or sitting still for too long restricts blood flow from the legs to the heart, adds pressure to the veins, and can result in vein damage and pooling of blood in the leg veins.
At work, walk about regularly and stretch your legs – go to the toilet, stand up to answer phone calls, stand up to read e-mail, or just take a break and walk up and down the office. Even moving your feet to create a pumping action in both ankles helps. Exercise regularly, too.
4. Put your feet up
It’s good to lie back and raise your feet above the level of your heart three to four times a day, for 30 minutes each time. This reduces swelling of the feet and improves blood circulation.