Why the risk of varicose veins increases during menopause

Going through the menopause can be a difficult time of life, with well-known symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety, insomnia and heart palpitations.

Women reaching the end of their child-bearing years can also be more prone to varicose veins. While anyone can suffer from varicose veins, they’re more common for women and often their arrival coincides with the start of menopause.

Menopause can often bring about a worsening of the condition, or lead to a woman developing varicose veins for the first time.

So, why can the menopause lead to varicose veins?

Well, part of the reason is simply down to age. As we get older, the valves in our veins can become weaker so they don’t do their job as effectively as they used to.

But, hormonal changes which happen during menopause can also increase the chances of developing varicose veins.

During and after the menopause, there is a decreased production of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Because these hormones have positive effects on the circulatory system, it is thought that decreased levels during and after menopause could contribute to the weakening of valves and the development of varicose veins.

Weight gain

Many women also struggle to maintain their ideal weight as they age, and being overweight is another risk factor as this can put extra pressure on your veins.

Studies have found estrogen plays a part in helping to control body weight. Reduced estrogen may lower the metabolic rate, the rate at which the body stores energy, leading to weight gain.

Taking action

While many see varicose veins as simply another unfortunate part of getting older, they don’t have to be something you decide to live with.

Exercise

As with other symptoms of the menopause, making lifestyle changes can have a positive impact. Good circulation is key to preventing the pooling of blood in veins, and exercise is the most effective way to increase circulation. Finding an exercise which you enjoy, such as swimming, cycling or walking is important during the menopause to help prevent varicose veins and weight gain.

Elevate your legs

When you sit or stand in one place for long periods of time, your veins have to work a lot harder to get your blood back to your heart. So, for those who sit in front of a computer all day at work, it’s important to take regular breaks to walk and stretch your legs. Elevating legs while sitting will also help, by giving your veins less work to do to circulate the blood. Raising your legs means they are not working against gravity.

But, even with lifestyle changes and changes in habits, many women who develop varicose veins while going through the menopause may find they need, or would like, treatment for health or aesthetic reasons.

Treatment offered for varicose veins has come a long way since sufferers were likely to be offered surgery as the first option for their condition, to strip out affected veins.

Now, minimally invasive methods such as laser treatment, or pioneering options to stick vein walls together, are much more common.

While they are more likely appear during the “change of life,” varicose veins don’t have to be another long-term symptom of the menopause.

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