Smoking has a near-instant effect on your veins. The chemicals inside a cigarette can cause your veins to become narrower in a process known as vasoconstriction. At first, these symptoms will come and go. But as the veins continue to constrict in response to cigarettes over time, they will build up permanent muscle tone. This new muscle takes up space that should belong to the blood.
Decreased Blood Flow Leads to Varicose Veins
With enough repetition, the body enters a constant state of vasoconstriction. In turn, the narrowed veins have difficulty fighting against gravity and pumping blood back to the heart. Instead, blood pools in the legs. This leads to the hardened, blue-purple veins that are known as varicose veins.
Chemicals in Cigarettes Increase Your Chance of Having Varicose Veins
The tar and carbon monoxide contained in a cigarette can cause severe damage to the body. When the blood picks up carbon monoxide instead of carbon dioxide, your blood becomes deoxygenated. The veins respond to this threat by becoming further inflamed, injuring themselves in the process.
Inflammation triggers the body’s immune system. White blood cells are pumped out into the body, releasing free radicals that cause more inflammation. These issues, combined with the vasoconstriction that the veins are already experiencing, significantly speed up the process of new or worsening varicose veins.
Highest Risks of Varicose Veins Are Found Older Female Smokers
The person with the highest risk of developing varicose veins will have a combination of some or all of the following factors:
- Over 45 years of age
- Entering menopause
- Family history of varicose veins
- Regular smoker (with highest risks at 19+ cigarettes/day)
Middle-aged male smokers are also at high risk. However, older female smokers tend to experience more pain, heaviness, numbness, discoloration, and ulceration than younger women or men of the same age.
Lifestyle Changes Can Affect Varicose Veins
If you’re experiencing discomfort or feel the need to continually cover-up due to unsightly varicose veins, there are ways to work toward recovery.
The causes for varicose veins are grouped into four different categories: Hereditary, hormonal, acquired, and lifestyle. Some of these factors like family history and hormonal changes due to pregnancy and menopause are out of your control.
You can change the contributing factors for varicose veins that are caused by lifestyle choices. Finding an accessible plan or medication that helps you to quit smoking and fits your needs is the most immediate way to protect yourself from worsening varicose veins.
It is also important to work with your doctor to develop an exercise regimen. This plan will focus on cardiovascular exercises that target the calves. You can work toward returning blood flow to stagnant areas in the legs and begin a journey to recovery.
Everyone deserves to feel confident and to look their best. Schedule a consultation with our vein specialists to discuss which treatments might be right for you. The Metropolitan Vein & Aesthetic Center has all of the tools you need to alleviate the pain and decrease your varicose veins’ visibility. Call today!