The Relationship Between Varicose Veins and Alcohol Consumption

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drinkThere are many causes for varicose veins, some of which are more under a person’s control than others. While gender, genetics, and family history are certainly out of a person’s control, some risk factors, like diet, weight, and activity level, can be addressed and monitored directly by the patient. When it comes to diet and health, people are quick to focus on what they are eating but oftentimes overlook what they are drinking. While the result of alcohol consumption on varicose veins is one of the lesser known contributing factors, it should nevertheless be taken into account when considering the many causes of varicose veins and venous insufficiency.

Being that varicose veins are a circulatory condition, and that alcohol effects blood circulation, it should come as no surprise that the two are heavily related. The body’s circulatory system consists of the heart and all veins, valves, and arteries that assist in pumping blood out of the heart, throughout the body, and back to the heart once again. This pumping action involves the most amount of work when circulating blood up from the feet, as the body has the greatest force of gravity to counter act at its base.

The blood in the legs is pumped back up to the heart through the veins by a series of one-way valves, valves that open in the direction of the heart and close immediately after the blood has passed through, ideally preventing any back flow of blood from occurring. When leg vein valves are damaged or aged they are are unable to prevent an unhealthy back flow of blood, causing pressure to build up in the leg veins and resulting in the swollen, bulging, and enlarged appearance associated with varicose veins.

When a person consumes alcohol, their heart rate increases and the amount of blood flow increases as a result. This increased blood volume forces the veins to work harder, particularly those in the leg that already have gravity to contend with. And, because alcohol intake also has a direct effect on a person’s liver, the organ responsible for filtering a person’s blood as it is circulated, alcohol is able to attack a person’s vein health from multiple angles. When the liver is unable to properly filter the blood of toxins and waste, the blood becomes thicker and more viscous, making it even harder for those already fragile leg veins to function properly.

While consuming alcohol does not necessarily cause varicose veins if no other risk factors are present, it can, however, make the development of varicose veins and venous insufficiency much more likely in those people who are predisposed to such conditions or who are already experiencing symptoms. While Dr. Zuzga of West Florida Vein Center is not going to tell you that you should never drink alcohol if you never want to have varicose veins, he will tell you that it is certainly wise to refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages if varicose veins are already present or if your gender, age, or family history make you a likely candidate for future venous disease.

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