In recent months, many of us have been working from home to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, working from home puts you at a greater risk for developing vein disease. Remote working often involves prolonged sitting, less-than-ideal work stations, overeating, and lack of exercise.
For instance, you might be more tied down than ever to your home desk chair, which isn’t even that comfortable. Perhaps you snack your way through never-ending Zoom meetings and as a result have put on some excess weight. Maybe, despite your best intentions back in March, you can’t seem to find the motivation to exercise anymore.
Vein disease is a common health condition that affects millions of individuals in the United States each year. Below, discover everything you need to know about reducing your vein disease risks and improving your overall vein health.
What Is Vein Disease?
Vein disease, also known as venous insufficiency, is the underlying cause behind painful, swollen, and unsightly varicose veins. Varicose veins occur when vein valves malfunction and make it challenging for blood in the legs to return to the heart. This condition causes blood to pool in the legs, ankles, and feet.
Common symptoms of vein disease include:
- Swelling in the legs and ankles
- Tired, aching legs
- Burning in the calf or thigh
- Leg pain that feels better when you walk or raise your legs
- Itchy, dry skin
- Numbness or tingling sensation
- Difficulty standing for long periods
- Non-healing wounds on your legs
What Are Potential Complications of Vein Disease?
If your malfunctioning veins are left untreated, you may be at greater risk of developing serious health conditions. The major potential issues involve blood clots and venous ulcers.
Most blood clots that develop in leg veins are a type known as Superficial Thrombophlebitis (STP). STP is rarely life-threatening, although you should bring these symptoms to the attention of your doctor as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the presence of Superficial Thrombophlebitis also puts you at increased risk for developing Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT). This condition can be potentially deadly.
Symptoms of DVT include:
- Swelling in the leg
- A feeling of warmth in the affected area
- Skin redness
- Pain or tenderness in your lower body, such as a cramp
If you are experiencing any of the above issues, contact your doctor immediately to seek emergency care.
Another potential complication of vein disease is the formation of venous ulcers. These are open, non-healing wounds that usually appear on the legs. Venous ulcers can be painful and can result in infection, so this also should be taken seriously.
How to Improve Your Vein Health From Your Home Office
Vein disease is something to avoid whenever possible. The bad news is some risk factors are simply beyond your control. These risks include being female, over the age of 60, pregnant, and/or having a family history of varicose veins. However, you can still change certain aspects of your lifestyle to reduce your risk.
Here’s what you can do at home to improve your vein health:
- Move: Avoid sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time. Of course, this isn’t always easy. Try this: When you are stuck at your desk (sitting or standing), take short breaks throughout the day to walk around to correct your posture. Aim for every 30 minutes, or as often as possible. You can journey up and down the stairs or hallway, or retrieve a glass of water from your kitchen. Even better, head outside for a deep breath of fresh air.
- Stretch: Let’s face it, you may not always be able to leave your desk. On days when you’re just not able to move around as often as you’d like, try doing some stretches instead. You can do calf raises or rotate your ankles and feet while still seated. Stand alongside your desk to stretch out your larger muscle groups.
- Massage: Beyond moving and stretching regularly, your veins can benefit from gentle massaging of the calves, ankles, and feet. This can help with leg circulation and doubles as a great stress reliever during a busy workday.
- Ergonomize: Spend some time thinking about the ergonomics of your workspace at home. Is your computer at an optimal height? Does your desk chair allow both feet to lie flat on the floor? Do you have appropriate back support? Are you sitting up straight? If you’ve opted for a standing desk, be aware that prolonged standing can be even worse than prolonged sitting.
- Lose weight: Being overweight or obese is another risk factor for developing venous insufficiency. If you are concerned about your vein health, then it’s probably a good idea to lose any excess weight. Easier said than done, right? Start by asking your doctor, friends, and family members for their support. You may even want to join a specialized weight loss program. Vein experts typically recommend limiting sugar, saturated fats, sodium, caffeine, and alcohol.
- Exercise: A routine exercise program is just as important as short periods of movement during your workday. Consider walking, running, swimming, or biking. These simple activities can support better blood circulation, help you manage your weight, and allow for appropriate social distancing.
- Compress: If you have varicose veins or are at high risk for vein disease, ask your doctor about wearing compression socks. The use of compression can help prevent blood from pooling in the lower extremities. It can also help reduce leg swelling, fatigue, discomfort, and heaviness.
- Elevate: At the end of your workday, be sure to put your feet up for at least 10 to 15 minutes. You can place them on several pillows while lying down, or put them up on a table or wall. Not only can this improve your vein health, it can also provide a mental transition from work to home life.
- Treat: Minimally-invasive, non-surgical vein treatment is widely available. If you’ve been diagnosed with vein disease, you can get help and return to an active, comfortable life.