The circulatory system is composed of the heart, lungs, veins, arteries and capillaries. The heart is in charge of pumping oxygenated blood from the lungs to the rest of the body. The arteries are the “pipes” that deliver the oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body; in the capillaries gas exchange takes place. Finally, the veins return oxygen-poor blood to the lungs to restart the circulatory cycle. Arteries are composed of smooth muscle that helps move the blood through them, veins on the other hand, don’t have muscle in their composition, but use the surrounding muscle to help move the blood back to the lungs. Veins have a valve system that prevents blood from flowing backwards; however, this mechanism sometimes fails and varicose veins appear.
Varicose veins are more common that we think, and many factors have an effect in the appearance of these gnarled, enlarged veins, but does diabetes cause varicose veins? In this article we are going to discuss what varicose veins are and how they relate to diabetes.
First let’s take a look at how varicose veins are formed. As mentioned above sometimes the mechanism that prevents the back flow of blood fails. When this happens, oxygen-poor blood accumulates in the veins giving the characteristic purple or blue color to a bulgy vein that is clearly noticeable on the skin. The next big question to ask is why this happens?
As we mentioned earlier, there are multiple factors that can lead to varicose veins. Perhaps the most important one is aging. The risk of varicose veins increases with age because of normal wear and tear of the circulatory system. The second risk factor is sex; women are a lot more likely to develop varicose veins. The main reason for this is the hormonal changes women undergo throughout their lives like pregnancy, menopause, and even hormonal replacement therapies. Other factors include family history, standing or sitting for prolonged periods of time, and obesity.
Researchers have not been able to establish a direct relationship between diabetes and varicose veins. However, it is known that diabetes, 1 and 2, have a negative effect in tissues. Constant uncontrolled high blood sugars have a detrimental effect in the circulatory system, so veins and their valves can over time get debilitated by high sugars. As discussed before, obesity is a risk factor for varicose veins, and many people with type 2 diabetes have weight problems as well as a sedentary life style.
What complication can varicose veins have? As a rule of thumb, the chances of varicose veins causing life threatening conditions is minimal; however, when combine with a condition like diabetes it is important to keep an eye on them. Varicose veins can get infected, and if left unattended the infection can spread causing life threatening conditions. People with diabetes have a tendency to have poor circulation as well as a weaker immune system. These two conditions combined make dealing with and infection a risky situation.
Varicose veins can become dangerous over time, especially when they are combined with poor circulation. People with diabetes need to pay close attention to their lower extremities as this self-exam can avoid many problems down the line. If you have diabetes and notice a protuberant vein, contact your health care provider just to make sure everything is under control. Have you experienced the appearance of varicose veins after being diagnose with diabetes? Share your experience with us!