Back to Living Better

5 myths about varicose veins

Though varicose veins are common, there are often misconceptions about how they form and who will get them. Garnet Craddock, M.D., a vascular surgeon at Piedmont, sets the record straight as he dispels five common myths about varicose veins.  

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged and twisted veins that commonly appear in the legs and feet. They usually occur when damaged veins have difficulty returning blood from the legs back to the heart, causing the veins to enlarge, thicken and twist. 

People who have varicose veins may experience leg heaviness, fatigue, aching, burning, swelling, discoloration or even ulceration.

Myth #1: Working on a hard surface all day will cause varicose veins.

“Many people believe that working on hard surfaces like cement causes varicose veins, but this is a myth,” says Dr. Craddock.

Working on hard surfaces often contributes to musculoskeletal pains, but has minimal direct influence on varicose veins. Leg venous pressure does increase with inactivity, such as sitting or standing for prolonged periods. Taking short walks or doing calf pump exercises throughout the day can help to relieve symptoms.  

Myth #2: Only women get varicose veins.

Varicose veins are thought to be more common in women, but men can get them too and in some studies are affected almost equally. According to the American Society for Vascular Surgery, more than 20 million Americans have varicose veins.

“Varicose vein risk is inherited, so a family history is the largest determining factor for the development of variscocities, not gender,” says Dr. Craddock.  “For every 10 women we treat in our clinic, we probably see about four men.”

Unfortunately, both women and men with symptoms often go untreated. 

Myth #3:  Exercise makes varicose veins worse.

“This is a myth,” says Dr. Craddock. “Exercise typically decreases venous pressure in the legs, which should reduce varicose vein formation." 

Leg pain with exercise can occur in some patients and is more often associated with arterial disease, but may be associated with vein obstruction resulting from blood clots or abnormalities. If you are experiencing leg pain, it's important to have it evaluated to receive the appropriate treatment. 

Myth #4: Only older adults get varicose veins.

Though varicose veins are more common in adults over the age of 50, children, teens and young adults can also have them. According to the Framingham Study, women between the ages of 40 to 49 have the highest risk of developing varicose veins. 

“Your risk of developing varicose veins may be as high as 90 percent if both of your parents have varicosities,” explains Dr. Craddock. 

Myth #5: You must have surgery to remove varicose veins.

Initially, varicose vein symptoms can be managed conservatively with:

More advanced disease will generally require control of venous pressure through vein removal. These procedures can be performed in an outpatient setting with minimal-to-no anesthesia, and patients should be able to return to normal activities rather quickly. 

If you are suffering from leg pain and would like to schedule a free screening, click here to find a vein care expert near you.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

Related Stories

Schedule your appointment online