Varicose veins are a fairly common disorder characterized by surface veins bulging through the skin, creating a discolored worm-like appearance. Although they generally aren't harmful, varicose veins can cause aching and discomfort in addition to marring the natural beauty of the skin. There are many things that can cause this condition to develop, and one of those includes using birth control products. Here's more information about how birth control makes a person more susceptible to getting varicose veins and what you can do about it.
Hormones and Vein Health
It's not the birth control products themselves that cause varicose veins but the effect they have on the hormones in the body. Contraceptives such as birth control pills and IUDs impact the production of progesterone and estrogen which, in turn, affects blood flow and vein health.
These two hormones have a relaxation effect on the muscles and veins, impacting the veins' ability to push blood to the heart. Additionally, estrogen can have a negative impact on platelet formation, leading to blood clots. The combination of these two issues may cause the veins to weaken too much to move blood efficiently, which may lead to the pooling and eventual enlargement associated with varicose veins.
Minimizing the Impact of Birth Control Products
There are several things you can do to avoid developing varicose veins if you're using hormonal birth control. Possibly the best thing you can do is get regular exercise, especially weight-bearing activities that help build muscle. In addition to improving overall blood circulation, exercise strengthens the muscles around the veins and helps them push the blood against gravity.
Although varicose veins can form anywhere, they are found most often in the legs because the veins have to push the blood upwards against the flow of gravity to the heart. You can alleviate some of the strain associated with this by lying down with your legs elevated (higher than your heart) for at least 30 minutes per day. This will force any blood that has pooled in the veins to circulate.
You should also avoid standing and sitting for long periods of time. If you have to sit a lot, get up every hour and walk around briskly for 5 minutes to get the blood in your legs moving. For those that stand a lot, sit or lay down every hour with your feet elevated for a few minutes to give your veins a break. If neither of these is possible, then consider wearing compression socks that help improve blood flow in the legs.
Lastly, quit smoking cigarettes. Nicotine causes plaque to form in the veins which can hurt their ability to circulate blood and lead to pooling.
For more tips on preventing varicose veins if you're using birth control or information about treatment options, contact a medical professional you trust.