Smoking, a lack of exercise, and unhealthy eating habits are often discussed in relation to varicose veins more frequently than alcohol. While consuming alcohol in moderation presents little harm to the body, excessive drinking can have severe consequences to every major organ, including the heart and related circulatory system.
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins, also referred to as spider veins, are surface veins that have become enlarged and twisted. The result of weak or damaged valves that allow blood backflow in the veins, varicose veins typically occur just under the surface of the skin in the lower legs and feet. While there are few symptoms or serious health risks associated with varicose veins, some may experience fullness, aching pain, and discomfort.
Generally however, varicose veins are a cosmetic concern of appearance, as they produce distinctly blue and purple bulges. Treatment may include compression socks, increased exercise, or surgical removal, but avoiding varicose veins altogether can often be accomplished through healthy habits.
The Circulatory System and Alcohol
The circulatory system is responsible for circulating oxygenated blood from the heart throughout the body by way of veins. While alcohol is not a direct cause of varicose veins, it can greatly contribute to their development and present further damage to the circulatory system. Because alcohol increases the heart rate, causing the heart to pump more blood faster, the increased stress on the veins is most prominent in areas furthest away from the heart, meaning the lower legs and feet.
As alcohol creates this additional strain on the veins, it also creates more work for the liver. The liver’s primary function is to filter and detoxify blood before it is delivered throughout the body by means of the circulatory system. Over time, alcohol damages and scars the liver, leading to higher pressure and resistance for blood trying to flow into the liver. This congestion downstream can lead to varicose veins in the esophagus and swelling in the abdomen (ascites).
Varicose Veins and Drinking
As previously established, varicose veins occur due to damaged valves that allow blood backflow. Envision a pipe that has become twisted, allowing for stagnant fluid to sit in one place. This accumulation of blood is exasperated by means of alcohol consumption. The increased pressure on the already compromised veins attempting to pump blood normally, then weakens the muscles supporting them. As a result, the varicose veins protrude more.
While drinking is not a direct cause of varicose veins, alcohol does not support healthy blood flow, therefore increasing the risk of developing or furthering circulatory issues such as varicose veins. Schedule an appointment with Heart of Dixie Vein & Vascular Center in St George, UT to meet with a compassionate specialist who can further discuss how to maintain vein health and varicose vein treatment options.