Almost 5% of the New Zealand population has a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. In some cases, people are living with diabetes unknowingly. Varicose veins are one sign of diabetes and can indicate more significant medical problems. 

Luckily, there are ways you can manage diabetes and varicose veins. Are you wondering how all of these medical conditions are tied together? 

We have simplified it in our complete guide below. Keep reading to learn more about how you can improve your health and blood circulation through lifestyle changes and minimally invasive treatments.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disease that results in high blood sugar levels. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.

Insulin acts as a carrier for sugar to be moved from the bloodstream and into cells. Type 1 diabetic patients do not create insulin, whereas type 2 diabetic patients become resistant to insulin

In both scenarios, sugar can build up in the bloodstream and lead to various health risks, such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Neuropathy
  • Vision loss
  • Venous insufficiency
  • Dementia

When complications do arise, it is crucial that you seek immediate medical care, but generally, diabetes can be managed well under the care of your GP. 

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged or swollen veins. They can appear purplish or blue in colour and result in pain or discomfort.

Sometimes, people have no symptoms at all, but they don’t like the appearance of the bulging veins and opt for treatment. 

With diabetic patients and those with underlying conditions, varicose veins can become more of a medical risk. Varicose veins are often a sign of poor blood circulation. When this underlying cause isn’t treated, it can lead to a deep vein thrombosis or a blood clot. 

Veins work a bit differently than arteries – they are one-way valve systems that help push blood back towards the heart. When these valves weaken, you can imagine which direction the blood starts going: backward. 

Unfortunately, a leaky vein valve, much like the valves in your heart, causes an increased risk for blood pooling and clots. Unlike the heart, varicose veins and malfunctioning valves are more likely seen in the lower extremities. Why? 

Your veins furthest away from your body are working extra hard at pushing blood back to your heart as it constantly fights against gravity.

Varicose vein risk factors

Some of the risk factors for varicose veins are pregnancy, constipation, and some types of tumours. High blood pressure and diabetes can also play a role in varicose veins and chronic vein insufficiency (more on that below).

Pregnancy places extra strain on your veins as your blood volume increases, and more pressure is put on women’s pelvis and lower extremities. Reducing your risk for varicose veins can include staying active, hydrating, and using compression socks. 

Varicose veins treatment

There are two main treatments for varicose veins: radiofrequency ablation and sclerotherapy. 

Radiofrequency ablation has become a newer approach for varicose vein treatment since it is less invasive and does not require a general anaesthetic.

Another positive is that it has a better success rate than surgical vein stripping. Don’t worry – it doesn’t just sound too good to be true. Radiofrequency ablation uses a simple catheter that is inserted into the vein. Next come the electrodes and radiofrequency waves.

After treatment, your surgeon removes the catheter, and you are left with minimal scarring, a shorter return to normal activity, and less discomfort. 

Sclerotherapy is a treatment that intentionally damages the lining of veins by injecting a chemical, called a sclerosant, into the vein and inducing a chemical phlebitis or inflammation.  By doing this and then applying pressure the vein walls stick together. The vein can then no longer fill with blood and so it is obliterated. 

Diabetes and Varicose Veins

Weight, diet, and exercise play a role in developing varicose veins. Does this sound familiar? These are also similar risk factors for type 2 diabetes. 

Diabetes symptoms can place increased pressure on your veins and put you at further risk for varicose veins. The added complication of high blood sugar levels can make your blood thicker and inhibit proper blood circulation. This can lead to non-healing sores, varicose vein development, and blood clots.