It’s Not Vain to Mind Veins!
Varicose and spider veins are a common problem for people who stand all day, so it’s no surprise that veins can be a professional hazard for hairdressers. They emerged as a concern in Healthy Hairdresser’s original research conducted in 2014, and the Office on Women’s Health (OWH), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that half of people over age 50 have varicose veins. OWH describes how these veins occur:
“The heart pumps blood filled with oxygen and nutrients to the whole body through the arteries. Veins then carry the blood from the body back to the heart. As your leg muscles squeeze, they push blood back to the heart from your lower body against the flow of gravity. Veins have valves that act as one-way flaps to prevent blood from flowing backwards as it moves up your legs. If the valves become weak, blood can leak back into the veins and collect there. (This problem is called venous insufficiency.) When backed-up blood makes the veins bigger, they can become varicose. Spider veins can be caused by the backup of blood. They can also be caused by hormone changes, exposure to the sun, and injuries.”
Risk factors for developing leg veins include:
- Age. The older you get, the higher your risk.
- Birth and genetics. Being born with weak vein valves and having family members with vein problems both increase your risk.
- Hormonal changes. Puberty, pregnancy and menopause are all prime time for vein appearance. Pregnancy additionally increases the amount of blood in the body and the pressure on veins, which can cause veins to enlarge. Birth control pills or any medicine containing estrogen and progesterone also raise the risk.
- Obesity. Extra weight puts pressure on your veins.
- Lack of movement. Sitting or standing for a long time may force your veins to work harder to pump blood to your heart.
- Sun exposure. The sun can bring out spider veins on the cheeks or nose of fair skin.
Take action now to prevent leg veins or keep them from getting worse. “The single most important thing you can do to slow down the development of new varicose veins is to wear gradient compression support stockings as much as possible during the day,” states the OWH website. Healthy Hairdresser sponsor Stand + Deliver develops compression socks especially for hairdressers. Also, use a stool when you cut hair, and move your position often.
OWH also recommends:
- Wear sunscreen to limit spider veins on the face.
- Exercise regularly—walking and running are best—to improve your leg strength, circulation and vein strength.
- Control your weight.
- Don’t cross your legs for long times when sitting, because injuries occur more easily and even a minor injury can increase the risk of varicose veins.
- Elevate your legs when resting as much as possible.
- Don’t stand or sit for long periods of time. If you must stand for a long time, shift your weight from one leg to the other every few minutes. If you must sit for long periods of time, stand up and move around or take a short walk every 30 minutes.
- Avoid tight clothing that constricts your waist, groin or legs.
- Avoid wearing high heels for long periods of time. Lower-heeled shoes can help tone your calf muscles to help blood move through your veins.
- Eat a low-salt diet rich in high-fiber foods. Eating fiber reduces the chances of constipation, which can contribute to varicose veins. Reducing salt can help prevent swelling.
Although generally varicose and spider veins are not dangerous, they can lead to more serious health problems, including:
- Sores or skin ulcers that can be painful and hard to heal.
- Bleeding. The skin over the veins becomes thin and easily injured.
- Blood clots just below the skin, causing pain and swelling.
- Deep vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot in a deeper vein. If the blood clot travels to the lungs, it can be fatal.
See a doctor for varicose veins that bleed, swell or become red, tender or warm to the touch. Also seek medical help if you notice sores or a rash on the leg or if ankle or calf skin thickens and changes color. Today’s treatments have high success rates. Needle and laser treatments can address most problems, while surgery is advised only for large varicose veins.
Varicose veins are a reality for many hairdressers. Manage them early, and they do not have to limit your career in any way.