If you are a working nurse, you may have concerns about developing varicose veins. For many reasons, these fears are justified. The risk factors that determine one’s likelihood of contracting vein diseases like varicose veins and spider veins are well known, and one of them is gender, because for hormonal reasons women develop varicose veins more often than men. Because 85% to 90% of Australian nurses are women, that means that if you’re a female nurse in a profession that requires you stand or sit for long periods of time, you’re at increased risk. Male nurses are at risk of developing varicose veins as well, so this article is going to focus on tips that can help nurses of either sex reduce their overall varicose vein risk.
· Be aware of your personal vein health risk factors. You are more likely to develop varicose veins if you’re over the age of 50, and if you have parents, grandparents, or siblings who have had them. You are also at increased risk if you are overweight, or if you smoke cigarettes.
· Try to avoid long periods of sitting or standing. Yes, we understand that your job can require you to either be on your feet or sitting behind a desk most of the day, and that both behaviours increase varicose vein risk. That said, there are things you can do to help. Whether standing or sitting, make a point of changing your position frequently. Shift your weight from one foot to another, and try to take “mini-breaks” every 30 minutes or so, in which you are able to walk around.
· Exercise regularly when you’re not working. Again, we understand that after a long shift on your feet that exercising may seem counter-intuitive, but regular exercise is one of the most effective prevention factors for vein disease. You don’t need to become a marathon runner; even gentle walking several times a week or taking the stairs rather than the elevator will help to keep your veins healthy and lower your varicose vein risk.
· Watch your weight. Every extra pound you carry around puts pressure on your veins and increases your vein disease risk. Also, reducing your intake of salt and alcohol can lower your risk because salt (sodium) causes tissue swelling and thus can impede proper blood flow, and alcohol dilates your veins, increasing blood flow to your feet and legs.
· Consider wearing compression socks or stockings. Medically-approved support hosiery improves your veins’ ability to pump blood back to your heart and lungs. They can also significantly reduce the amount of fatigue you feel at the end of a long day.
· Elevate your legs. If you have a “break room” or somewhere private you can go during your shift, try to spend a few minutes every few hours with your legs elevated. For example, lie down on a couch and place your feet on several pillows so that they are higher than your head.
· Watch what you wear. Even if your uniform allows high heels, try to avoid them. Wearing low-heeled shoes exercises your calf muscles more, and thus helps to prevent varicose veins. Try to avoid underclothing like tights or Spanx that restrict circulation at your waist, legs, or groin.
If you already have varicose veins, seek treatment for them. This advice also applies if you already know that your age, gender, and heredity place you at higher-than-normal risk for vein disease. Varicose veins can be effectively treated and removed, so if your legs are already showing signs of developing them, don’t wait, hoping that they’ll go way or “get better on their own.” They won’t. But if you give the specialists at The Vein Institute a call at 1 300 535 017, they can definitely help.