Should You Be Body Positive About Varicose Veins?

May 17, 2023 The Vein Institute

We hear varicose veins being described as ugly, bulging, and unattractive. In fact, many people seek us out because they’re concerned about the look of this condition. But is that a good mindset to have? Should you seek varicose vein treatment for aesthetic reasons? Should you be body positive about varicose veins? Here’s our take on the matter.

Varicose veins are a medical condition

Varicose veins develop when the little valves inside the veins stop closing properly, leading to reflux (blood pooling inside the vein). Over time, the vein walls bulge out and turn varicose. And due to this change, as your circulation becomes more and more affected, you may develop symptoms like swelling, aches, and limb fatigue as your muscle tissue stops receiving all the nutrients it needs. 

They can also lead to more complications down the line. Deep vein thrombosis, venous ulcers, and varicose eczema may develop. Of course, not everyone with varicose veins will develop these symptoms. But even if you just have bulging veins, it’s worth seeking specialist advice.

Stages of varicose veins: spider, reticular, nodes, swelling, discoloration skin, eczema, trophic ulcer. Image of healthy and diseased legs.

You shouldn’t be body negative about them

As we mentioned, many people want to get rid of their varicose veins because they don’t like the way they look. And considering the bulging, dark, and twisted appearance of the veins, it’s not hard to see why. But, a negative body image (even if it’s just toward your varicose veins) can lead to stress and unhealthy habits. You may start withdrawing from social activities, spending time trying to cover them up, and spending money on ineffective concealment methods like supplements. 

You might also seek treatment when you don’t strictly need it. While modern treatments like Endovenous Laser Ablation are minimally invasive, safe, and effective, many medical clinics will recommend conservative therapies first for cosmetic cases. Steps like wearing compression stockings, doing gentle exercises, and elevating your legs are good ways to slow or stop the condition from progressing. Additionally, as Medicare doesn’t cover cosmetic cases, cosmetic treatment can wind up being very, very expensive.

Varicose veins self-care tips

  1. First, you don’t need to love your varicose veins or be particularly body positive about them. Body neutrality is more than enough. 
  2. Try conservative methods. Wearing compression stockings, eating the right foods, exercising, and taking movement breaks every 30 minutes of standing or sitting are great for managing the condition.
  3. Keep your goals realistic. While these methods may help lessen the appearance of varicose veins, you’ll be disappointed if you think they’ll make your veins disappear. 
  4. Seek specialist advice when you develop the condition, and seek treatment when you need it.

mother and daughter doing a yoga pose

A note on varicose veins and weight

One of the main concerns of the body positivity movement is how we think about weight. Specifically, we should stop thinking about being overweight as a bad thing. And we’re inclined to agree.

Now, you may have heard us say that weight plays a role in your likelihood of developing varicose veins. And we’d like to stress that being a few kilos over your ideal BMI weight will not cause the condition. 

  • First, varicose veins are primarily genetic: a slim person who has the condition running in their family is much more likely to get varicose veins than an ‘overweight’ person who doesn’t. 
  • Second, BMI is a very flawed way to see if you’re overweight or not since it doesn’t account for muscle vs fat mass. 
  • And third, the bigger concern is unhealthy, weight-gain-related habits. Eating a diet high in sugar, salt, and transfats and low in vitamins and nutrients your veins need can weaken your veins over time, making them susceptible to bulging. Additionally, a static lifestyle is terrible for your veins. Unlike your arterial system, your venous system relies on muscle movement to move blood around. If you don’t do enough exercise, your veins won’t move enough blood, and it can start to pool.

That said, in some cases, losing weight can be beneficial for your veins. If you have a lot of excess weight (for instance, if you’re obese), it will put more strain on your veins as they’ll need to move a higher volume of blood. And when this excess weight is coupled with bad exercise and eating habits, it will make matters worse. 

So. The bottom line is to make healthy changes in your lifestyle. Your veins will be happier for it. And if you or your doctor feel that losing some weight will be good for your health, it will be a far better way to go about it. 

In summary

It’s not necessary to be body positive about your varicose veins, but it is necessary to not think of them as just a cosmetic concern. Even if you’re not feeling symptoms, you should still take steps to be more active, eat right, and wear compression stockings. 

And if you do start feeling symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek specialist advice. Call us at 13 VEINS (that’s 13 83467) or fill out this form to book a consultation in our Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Parramatta, or Canberra vein clinic.