Varicose veins are veins which do not properly pump the blood back to the heart against gravity anymore. They are a manifestation of chronic venous disease (CVD) and often appear as twisted, swollen and enlarged blood vessels of esthetic concern. Nevertheless, their loss of function in the blood circulation might also lead to serious health problems.
Risk factors for the development of varicose veins
Several risk factors come into play when it comes to the development of varicose veins1: gender, lifestyle, increasing age, obesity, pregnancy as well as family history. These various genetic and environmental risk factors have been described in multiple research studies. Moreover, certain activities like standing at work for long hours have been found to be linked with the formation and progression of varicose veins.
1Muzaffar A. Anwar et al; A Review of Familial, Genetic, and Congenital Aspects of Primary Varicose Vein Disease
Is prolonged standing a significant risk factor for varicose veins?
With working conditions sometimes requiring several hours of standing during the day, interest has been high to identify whether these conditions are increasing the risk for the development of varicose veins. A Danish study observed 1.6 million employees for 3 years in order to track to what extent working conditions may correlate with first hospitalization due to varices of the lower leg.
What measures can be taken to prevent varicose veins from prolonged standing?
The researchers found that men working long hours in a standing position had a 1.85 higher risk for varicose vein compared to all other men. For women the risk was even higher with 2.63 times compared to other women1. Other studies confirmed those results and even for jobs with prolonged standing or walking a higher risk for the formation of varicose veins was observed. In a study conducted for 12 years, results showed that one fifth of all patients of working age with varicose veins can be linked to prolonged standing at work and the subsequently higher risk for the need for a treatment due to the disease2.
1Tuchsen F. et al; Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health.
2Tuchsen F. et al; Prolonged standing at work and hospitalisation due to varicose veins: a 12 year prospective study of the Danish population.
The obvious link between venous disease and prolonged standing cannot be denied. Nevertheless, even if working conditions require standing regularly, preventive measures can and should be taken in order to prevent the formation of varicose veins. Any opportunity to reduce or interrupt standing activities should be taken in order to encourage better blood flow. If this is not possible, usage of compression socks should be considered to support the upwards flow of blood. Moreover, stretching and small exercises regularly can help to increase circulation and thereby cause a reduction in pressure buildup3.
3Jin Wook Bahk et al; Relationship between prolonged standing and symptoms of varicose veins and nocturnal leg cramps among women and men.