By David Martin, RN, CRNFA
If your grandmother or grandfather complained of aching legs and feet, wore heavy “support socks” or stockings, and had gnarled and distended veins, you may have a genetic predisposition toward venous insufficiency, or the failure of delicate valves in your legs. These valves are meant to keep blood from flowing backward as it is being pumped back up the legs to your heart and lungs.
This failure causes some blood to reflux, or flow backwards. Blood may pool, causing legs to feel heavy, tired and restless. The condition may also cause veins to collapse and become ropey and swollen. Treatments for venous insufficiency have changed dramatically in just the last dozen years. And when it comes to those therapeutic hose and socks your grandmother may have worn – let’s just say she might not even recognize today’s compression wear.
Old-fashioned compression stockings or socks, while effective in providing symptom relief, were not very attractive and were sometimes uncomfortable. Today, you can enjoy therapeutic levels of support in “intelligent sportswear” – garments that provide support as well the promise of increased performance to runners. Perhaps equally as important to fashion-conscious athletes: this compression sportswear looks great. So while you’re enjoying reduced times on your 5Ks and marathons, you’re also wearing a hot trend in athletic wear with the colorful compression “sleeves” for your calves or running tights on your entire lower body.
Likewise, today’s vein treatments have improved too. Old-fashioned treatments for varicose veins were horrific, involving surgery and several days in the hospital, but today’s treatments are office-based, requiring little or no downtime, with insurance covering most procedures.
With these easier, next-generation treatments for venous insufficiency, 50- and 60 year-olds won’t just “live with” leg pain, swelling, restlessness, or the varicose and spider veins that make them feel and look older. Instead, they will seek treatments that can make the next third of their lives healthier and happier. Bottom line? New products and procedures make leg health an easier way than ever to outrun aging.