Diabetes increases risk of varicose veins, but they are not interdependent

Treatment and prevention methods are similar


Varicose veins and diabetes are not really interdependent. Diabetes per se does not cause varicose veins. They are caused by the inability of veins and veinous valves to push blood on to the path back to the heart. When the push is insufficient, gravity takes over and causes pooling of blood.

Diabetes can influence one's health in many ways and make one susceptible to severe health conditions. The same is true for varicose veins. And both conditions together can have a bigger impact on health.

Although the two conditions are not severely interdependent, diabetes increases the risk of varicose veins. High blood sugar damages and weakens veins. Diabetes also causes a delay in blood circulation and aids the formation and retention of plaque in blood. This, in turn, could lead to varicose veins. And, diabetes is a major cause of chronic venous insufficiency, which could cause varicose veins.

Diabetes and varicose veins are commonly seen in elders. This is because ageing has a negative impact on immune efficiency and venous health. Pregnancy is a major risk factor for both diabetes and varicose veins. The veins and valves are weakened because of the major changes that the body is going through. Also, hormonal imbalance during pregnancy leads to high blood sugar levels resulting in gestational diabetes, which, in turn, can damage blood vessels. One needs to keep the leg elevated if there are slight symptoms of varicose veins.

Body weight is another factor which has a connection with the possibility of diabetes. It also puts additional pressure on the veins, which could lead to varicose veins. Genetics, too, play a vital role in diseases like diabetes and varicose veins.

As both varicose veins and diabetes are caused by the same risk factors, the treatments and prevention methods are similar. Making healthy lifestyle choices and opting for a healthy diet is the most effective non-medical approach. One needs to increase fibre intake and reduce salt intake. An improvement in the blood sugar level can help improve vein health. If one has only diabetes and no symptoms of varicose veins, it is recommended to regularly check blood sugar levels and always check for any changes to the veins.

Nyapathi is interventional radiologist and vascular surgeon, Apollo Spectra Hospital, Bengaluru.