Alcohol and Varicose Veins
Varicose veins affect the lives of more than 50 percent of the US population. Although varicose veins occur for a number of reasons, many people often forget how alcohol abuse, or alcoholism, can cause exacerbation of varicose veins.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects 17 million adults in the US. Unfortunately, the combination of these statistics means 8.5 million people with AUD may be suffering from varicose veins as well. Although unsightly, varicose veins may cause pain. Varicose veins can also be indicators of serious conditions, especially if an AUD is present. Before you have another cocktail, take a few minutes to understand how alcohol may be contributing to varicose veins.
Alcohol Use Disorders (AUD) and Varicose Vein Risk
AUDs follow a set of 11 diagnosing criteria within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; however, binge and heaving drinking are chief indicators of the development of an AUD. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines the following:
Binge Drinking– Binge drinking occurs by having enough drinks to reach a 0.08 g/dL blood alcohol concentration within a single sitting. This is typically five drinks for men and four drinks for women.
Heavy Drinking– Within the past 30 days, heavy drinking describes having five or more drinks in a single sitting for five or more days.
Engaging in heavy and binge drinking increases the risk of developing health problems, which includes varicose veins, liver damage, and other serious health problems.
What Are Varicose Veins?
Arteries carry blood away from the heart, and veins return blood to the heart. The pressure of the heart is not great enough to push blood through the veins alone. Veins contain valves to help keep blood from flowing backward within the circulatory system. When your muscles contract, the valves open, and blood is moved towards the heart. Over time, these valves become worn, and blood may pool between valves and flow backward. When this occurs, the vein becomes engorged beyond capacity. However, problems within the circulatory system, such as excess alcohol use, may cause these valves to fail prematurely.
What Are Spider Veins?
When valves in veins fail, the vein may take on a spider-like appearance. Spider veins are commonly seen in the upper body, such as the face, neck, torso, and arms. When liver damage has occurred, spider veins occur in greater quantities.
Alcohol Affects the Circulatory System
Alcohol causes blood pressure and heart rate to increase. As a result, more blood is pumped through the arteries towards the veins. However, the veins valves do not experience an increase in pumping activity unless additional physical activity occurs. Moreover, the additional strain on the heart results in additional pressure, albeit mild pressure, on the blood within the veins. Unfortunately, veins become engorged with blood more quickly, and the valves are unable to support the added strain. At this point, the vein loses all muscle tone and swells, which produces the unsightly appearance of varicose veins.
Alcohol Causes Liver Problems
The liver is responsible for removing waste products and toxin from the blood, which include alcohol. Without this core function, the kidneys begin to falter, and the blood eventually reaches a point of toxicity and increased viscosity. Although it’s not medically correct to define thicker blood, the increased toxins make the circulation of blood more difficult. This produces an added strain on veins, which must now pump a higher volume of blood towards the heart. Now, consider how alcohol use affects the liver.
Alcohol use causes the liver to work harder to remove alcohol and toxins from the blood. As the liver is repeatedly forced to work harder to cleanse the blood, hepatocytes, or liver cells, may become covered in scar tissue. This is referred to as cirrhosis of the liver. As the liver becomes unable to properly remove toxins from the blood, the blood becomes more viscous and filled with damaging compounds. Therefore, the metabolism of alcohol takes longer to complete, and the cycle of liver problems and varicose veins begins to reinforce itself with each passing heartbeat.
Does Alcohol Use Cause Varicose Veins?
No evidence exists to definitively prove alcohol consumption causes varicose veins. However, the negative consequences of alcohol use, such as liver disease, poor circulation, and poor overall health, may hasten the development of varicose veins. Therefore, someone with pre-existing conditions, or varicose veins, will be more likely to see an increase in varicose veins. Furthermore, varicose veins may actually occur in severe cases of alcoholism as esophageal varices, which are varicose veins within the esophagus. If these varices rupture, it may cause significant injury, if not death.
If you need help with varicose vein issues or having them removed, get in touch with Chicago Vein Institute. We specialize in procedures to treat varicose veins for both medical and cosmetic purposes in Metro and North Center Chicago.
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Chicago Vein Institute is a practice solely dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of vein diseases. The experts at CVI perform the latest and most effective treatments for painful varicose veins, spider veins, and other vein-related disorders. CVI offers minimally invasive treatment options, including Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA), Ambulatory Phlebectomy, Ultrasound-Guided Sclerotherapy, Surface Sclerotherapy, Elastic Compression Stockings and wound care for venous ulcers, performing more than 8,000 vein-related procedures annually. Visit our sister brand, Chicago Cosmetic Institute, offering a full array of medical spa services including CoolSculpting, Liposuction, Botox, chemical peels and more.